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Live from Abu Dhabi Connect the World takes you on a journey across continents, investigating the stories that are changing our world.

China stands firm on death row Briton

December 23rd, 2009
01:37 PM ET

Chinese authorities are set to go ahead with plans to execute a 53-year-old British man convicted of smuggling four kilograms (nine pounds) of heroin at Urumqi Airport in September 2007. [cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/12/23/china.death.row.art.jpg caption ="Briton Akmal Shaikh is due to be executed on December 29th."]

A final appeal to China’s People’s Supreme Court to pardon Akmal Shaikh has been rejected as have repeated representations from the UK’s Foreign Office in recent weeks. Even the intervention of UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown appears to have come to nothing.

As things stand Shaikh will be executed – the first citizen of the European Union to suffer such a fate in over 50 years reportedly.

But Shaikh’s supporters say that he is suffering from mental illness and should be pardoned.

Reprieve, a UK-based legal action charity, say that Shaikh – who reportedly suffers from bipolar disorder – has been refused a proper mental assessment by the Chinese authorities and that his condition hasn’t been taken into consideration during his trial and sentencing.

The charity commissioned its own preliminary psychological report which suggested that Shaikh was likely suffering from “some form of delusional psychosis."

Reprieve say that Shaikh was lured to China by two men who were promising to help him launch a pop music career.

Shaikh’s children say their father has been “seriously ill for much of his life” and they called for the Chinese people to show “compassion and humanity.”

But a spokesman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs told CNN in October there was no evidence of Shaikh’s mental illness.

"The British Embassy and a British organization proposed to have a psychological exam but could not offer any proof of mental illness," the spokesman said. "The defendant himself said that his family does not have a history of mental illness."

"This case has always been handled according to law. During the trial, the defendant has been guaranteed his legal rights," Jiang Yu, spokeswoman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Tuesday.

We’d like your thoughts on this case. Do you think Chinese authorities have a duty to reexamine the mental wellbeing of Shaikh before condemning him to death? Or are they right to ignore the appeals? Do you think the death penalty a fair sentence for drug-smuggling?  Post your comments below.

Filed under:  General