12/30/2009, 00.00
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Strained relations between London and Beijing after execution of a British national

Beijing has carried out the death sentence against the British Akmal Shaikh, found in possession of drugs, but mentally unstable. First time in 50 years for a European to be convicted in China. Strong criticism from the British government and the European Union.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Western nations continue to heap criticism on China, over the 29 December execution of Akmal Shaikh, a 53 year old British national arrested in possession of four kilos of heroin. The government in London and the European Union accuse Beijing of failing to take account of the mental problems the European suffered, which made him "an unwitting accomplice" of traffickers.  

The court in Urumqi, that judged the case, were presented with ten witnesses by the Briton’s defence team, but they have not been heard. Furthermore, many witnesses spoke of "clear evidence of mental problems" of the offender, that the Chinese authorities had "deliberately ignored".

The British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has condemned "in the strongest terms" the execution: "I am appalled and disappointed that our insistent requests for clemency have not been answered”.   Right up until the final day, Western authorities submitted a total of 27 requests for clemency, all of which were ignored. Shaikh is the first European citizen to be executed in China for 50 years now.

For its part, Beijing rejects the charges. The Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, said that "Chinese justice is independent and that the case against Shaikh was conducted" in accordance with the law. This is an individual case which I hope will not damage relations between China and Great Britain".   In response, the British Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs Ivan Lewis met the Chinese ambassador Fu Ying.  

Immediately after the meeting, Lewis said: "I had a difficult conversation with the Chinese ambassador. I made clear that the execution of Shaikh was unacceptable and that China, in particular the Chinese court that has considered the requests concerning the mental condition of Shaikh, has not fulfilled its responsibilities towards human rights".  

Brussels has supported the protests of London, and announced this morning that the EU "profoundly regrets the fact that China failed to listen to legitimate requests". A spokesman for the European Commission President Barroso added: "You can not have too many relationships with those who do not listen."

But the Global Times, the official newspaper of the Chinese government in English, defended the carrying out of the sentence: "All requests for clemency made by the British government and the media do not raise too much sympathy, given that drug trafficking is a worldwide threat. If Akmal’s sentence had been commuted Akmal, others would have thought that in China you can deal drugs and then say they were insane. "
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