Michael Trapido
Michael Trapido

Executing Akmal Shaikh: Part II

In the vast majority of criminal justice systems across the world, a person who is mentally disabled to a degree that they are incapable of appreciating right from wrong in terms of the law, is deemed to be incapable of committing the crime for which they are charged.

Moreover, and even if the above is not applicable, upon the assessment by competent medical doctors, a person may be found mentally incapable of standing trial.

In the early hours of this morning, Akhmal Shaikh — the Briton convicted of smuggling 4kg of heroin into China — was executed.

According to Chinese authorities, evidence of his mental illness was “insufficient”.

Gordon Brown, who has made several appeals for clemency for Mr Shaikh, immediately condemned the execution, and expressed deep concern over the fact that no mental health assessment was undertaken.

In other words, the chances are that Shaikh was considered legally innocent of the charges after a half-hour trial during the course of 2008.

Staggering, in turn, is the fact that despite enormous global pressure to assess Shaikh following repeated confirmation that he suffers from bipolar disorder, the authorities simply went ahead with the execution.

Even though it will not be of any comfort to Shaikh’s family, Reprieve and Amnesty must now press ahead to see whether the conviction and sentence are considered to be in accordance with Chinese law.

To do otherwise is to sanction state murder.