Akmal Shaikh was executed at 10.30am local time on December 29 2009 in Urumqi, China.
Sharing Bipolar.com is appalled that China killed Akmal despite his severe mental illness and vulnerability. Akmal’s tragic death is a shocking failure of the Chinese legal system.
About Akmal Shaikh
A British small business owner from North London, Akmal was married with five children.
Akmal had a lifelong history of very strange behaviour, and he suffered from an extremely serious mental condition. A preliminary medical report by clinical psychologist Dr Peter Schaapveld suggests that the odd decisions leading up to Akmal’s offence were most likely influenced by some form of delusional psychosis.
On 12 September 2007, Akmal Shaikh flew into Urumqi, in north west China, from Dushanbe, in Tajikistan. Akmal states that he went to China in the hope of launching a pop career. Prior to flying to China, Akmal had met a man named Carlos in Poland with whom he had written a song with that he wanted to record. Carlos told him that he knew people in the music industry that could assist and he sent Akmal to Kyrgyzstan. Akmal was accompanied by a gentleman who claimed to own a nightclub in China and promised him that he could perform there.
En route to China, this gentleman and Akmal stayed in a 5 star hotel in Tajikistan which Akmal believed was a sign of his celebrity status. As he was passing through Urumqi airport, Akmal was searched and his baggage scanned. Two packets allegedly containing around 4kg of heroin were found in his luggage. Akmal told the officials that he did not know anything about the drugs, and that the suitcase did not belong to him.
He aided the Chinese authorities with their inquiries and it appears that he told them as much as he could about the incident. Despite this, the Court sentenced him to death in October 2008. The organisation ‘Reprieve’ had been working on Akmal’s case since August 2008, assisting the local lawyer in China – who has shown great enterprise and courage – to ensure that all relevant issues are presented to the courts.
Akmal’s first appeal which was heard by the District Court in Urumqi on Tuesday 26 May; has been denied, as was his appeal to the Supreme People’s Court. At no point was his mental health considered, despite the best efforts of his lawyers. The Chinese courts repeatedly refused to allow Akmal to be assessed by a psychiatrist.
The most important issue in the case is Akmal’s mental health. The Chinese authorities originally indicated a willingness to allow him to be assessed by a local doctor, but the court subsequently refused. Reprieve immediately sought permission for British psychologist Dr Schaapveld to see Akmal, and paid for him to fly to China – where he too was inexplicably refused access.
The impact of Bipolar
Bipolar disorder is an acute and debilitating disease and is described by the expert Dr Kay Jamison of John Hopkins University School of Medicine as “destroying the basis of rational thought.” Occasionally, severe episodes of mania or depression include symptoms of psychosis or psychotic symptoms. It is highly likely that these professional drug smugglers knew that he was suffering from a mental illness and could be readily manipulated. At one appeal hearing, against the very strong advice of his lawyers, Akmal read aloud a long, rambling and often incoherent personal statement to the court. Greeted with incredulity and sometimes mirth by court officials, the 50-minute speech demonstrates Akmal’s severe mental unbalance.
On the same day, Reprieve obtained a series of bizarre emails written by Akmal and sent to the British Embassy in Poland. The emails, which number in the hundreds and are exceedingly strange, provide further evidence of a severely disturbed mind. In the days and hours leading up to Akmal’s execution, six independent witnesses came forward to attest to his severe illness. These statements, together with the full case file on Akmal Shaikh, have been sent repeatedly to the Chinese authorities, and apparently ignored.
Sharing Bipolar.com would like to thank everyone who attempted to save Akmal, including his family– who showed great courage — and the British Foreign Office and Government. Our heart goes out to the family at this terrible time.