Akmal Shaikh, 53, was arrested in China in September
2007 for smuggling heroin into the country. Shaikh, who
suffers from delusional psychosis, will be the first Briton
to be executed in China. His death is said to be
imminent. (Photo credit: BBC)
A mentally-ill Briton with severe delusional psychosis is set to be executed for a 2007 heroin smuggle he claims to have been duped into, the Guardian is reporting. While many of the world's eyes had been on China this weekend as it hosted the annual World Media Summit, an event many have speculated would act as a precursor to further westernization of the communist nation, this stark headline is a reminder that China is still, well, China.
Hailing from Kent in the southeast of England and operating a successful miniature cab operation there as recently as 2003, Shaikh left his wife and five children shortly thereafter to travel to Poland and "set up an airline". This logical quandary provides, at most, directional insight into the rapid decline of his mental fortitude. During his four year tenure in the country his state of being was marked by paranoia and delusion, including a false declaration to his Polish girlfriend that he had won a million pounds in the lottery. His friendly, personal correspondences soon grew in number to hundreds and expanded to individuals with whom he was not acquainted, including Paul McCartney and former US President George W. Bush, a long chain of contacts which eventually found him in regular contact with some of Poland's most notorious criminals. One of these men, referred to only as "Carlos," booked Shaikh on a flight to Kyrgyzstan just days before his arrival and subsequent arrest in China.
Shaikh was greeted by another shady figure, this one know as "Okole," upon arrival in Kyrgyzstan, and continued alone on his journey to the western Chinese city of Urumqi, where he arrived September 12, 2007, after a stop in Tajikistan. In Tajikistan, Okole left Shaikh, citing that there was but a single seat remaining on the plane. Vowing to meet Shaikh in Urumqi at his earliest convenience, Okole gave the oblivious Shaikh a suitcase filled with heroin and a promise of, among other things, an opportunity to perform a song he had written at a fictional nightclub in Urumqi. His suitcase scanned as part of customs procedures, Shaikh was arrested immediately upon arrival in China. He was sentenced to death less than two months later.
After explaining to authorities that the suitcase was not his, attempting to organize a sting operation for the "Okole" character who would never arrive, and filing an unsuccessful appeal at the municipal level, it was reported today that Shaikh's second appeal--this one final and to the Supreme People's Court--has failed. While a date for his execution has not been set, it is common for prisoners whose second appeals are not successful to be executed at a moment's notice, usually by gunshot to the back of the head. Shaikh's failure comes in spite of expert medical testimony on his behalf, as well as a flood of support from celebrities and government officials, including a direct plea from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to Chinese President Hu Jintao at the recent G20 Summit in Pittsburgh. If executed--which seems, unfortunately, certain--Shaikh will be the first Briton executed in China.
For updates on the case of Akmal Shaikh, as well as destination guides and time-saving tips, stay tuned to the Austin International Travel Examiner.