Monday, 28 December 2009

Will they tell him when he's dead?

I've never been able to decide what to think about Akmal Shaikh, the British citizen facing execution in China for smuggling drugs. His defence seems to hinge on 'well, yes, he did it but he's a bit dim, you know?'

There is no denying he was carrying drugs. His defence lawyers say he can't be held responsible because of mental illness. He has bipolar disorder. The thing is, as Chinese doctors will be aware, bipolar disorder does not affect intelligence. It's a mood-swing thing, sufferers might be ecstatic one day and suicidal the next with no reference to what's happening around them. Whichever phase they're in, their intelligence is still there. I can't see why it would be a defence in this case.

It's a British thing, and a very recent one, to try to defend anyone caught in the act with a mental illness defence. It's not going to work in China. Ever. Not even the story that he went there because he's not very bright and someone convinced him he was going to be a recording star. That might be true. Such things happen to people. China might or might not accept that one, but they will not accept bipolar disorder as a defence. It doesn't make people stupid.

He's been sentenced to death. Right or wrong? I don't know. Should he be let off just because he's British? No. If you visit another country then you are subject to their laws. Which is why so many criminals come here, where the law puts them above their victims.

If it can be proved that he genuinely had no idea what he was doing, should he be let off? Not entirely. He did carry the drugs, even if he was duped into it, so should be punished for that. The death sentence is far too high for that crime but it is still a crime.

Even though there are people out there who I'd like to see strung up, and a few who should be peeled and salted first, I am not in favour of the death penalty. The law makes mistakes. Someone wrongly imprisoned can be released and compensated. Someone wrongly hanged, well, all we can do is carve 'sorry' into the gravestone. So, other than in cases where the criminal was caught in the act, and that act involved murder or rape, I'd never support a death sentence.

What strikes me as particularly horrible about this case is that everyone on the planet knows this guy has been sentenced to death, except one. Him.

He has not been told.

Imagine sitting in a cell, not knowing what's coming but perhaps confident that you'll be freed. Then you're told you've been sentenced to death and it'll happen within 24 hours. How would you feel about that? How would you feel when you find that the whole world has known about this for weeks, including the guards and everyone who visited you? You wouldn't need to be bipolar to hit a severe depression. It's not a good feeling for the last day of life.

Whether he deserves the death penalty or not, telling everyone but him that he's doomed is just nasty.

It's on humanitarian grounds, apparently.


Angry Exile said...

Never mind 24 hours notice, f I was on death row personally I'd rather not know about it at all until everything went dark. But then if I'd been nicked for smuggling drugs into a country known for its readiness to execute criminals (and widely rumoured to have sent the families of the condemned invoices for the bullets), and I was sitting in a cell and they were being really cagey about what was going to happen next I'd probably suspect they were going to kill me anyway. And as you point out, bi-polar doesn't mean stupid. He may not have been told but he might well be guessing.

So, other than in cases where the criminal was caught in the act, and that act involved murder or rape, I'd never support a death sentence.

Even then I have a problem: I don't trust the state with that sort of power. I don't trust its competence and I don't trust it not to abuse it later on. Would you trust a cash strapped state faced with the bill for keeping drug dealers and smugglers locked up not to consider wasting any that were caught red handed, just like China are doing? I wouldn't.

What it really comes down to for me is that the power of life and death in the UK would rest ultimately in the hands of someone like Gordon Brown or David Cameron. No fucking thanks.

Anonymous said...

what i don't get is how did he get through airport security from where he departed,,, before arriving in China???????

manwiddicombe said...

Leg-iron - as DP points out the BBC refer to him as an 'EU national' not a 'British citizen'.

Keep up chap! We're all Europeans now .....

Leg-iron said...

Manwiddicombe - I knew I'd read that somewhere but couldn't find it.

Anonymous said...

Thing is.... this dickhead was carrying 4 Kg of smack, not ounces, not pounds, Kilograms. Thats 4 bags of sugar if you like, that smells like fish and chips with too much vinegar on it. Now the family are saying he's a mental case, despite his holding a job as a taxi driver, where one presumes that an ability to keep from tearing down the street naked, drooling and shouting WUGGA WUGGA WUGGA at people is esential.

Sorry, it sounds the sort of bad excuse you come up with when you suddenly find yourself in a small room with loads of unsympathetic men who are armed to the teeth.

Robert the Biker

Chris said...

Imagine sitting in a cell, not knowing what's coming but perhaps confident that you'll be freed. Then you're told you've been sentenced to death and it'll happen within 24 hours.

Is Kafka still banned in China? You can see why...

a sad nation said...

The rest of the world must think we're all a bunch of spastics. If it's not autism or bi polar it's 'got in with a bad crowd' or ' was doing charity work honest'. Are there no normal healthy crooks left in our once great country ?

surgeon said...

I've read that the organs of dead prisoners are harvested and sold to the West. If this is the case then I presume he won't be offered a last cigarette before being shot. This would pollute the lungs and be unfair to the recipient.

Leg-iron said...

Apparently he's been told and is due to die any moment.

There is much uproar, but nothing will come of it. I can't see Barry O'Blimey demanding regime change in China.

Tony_E said...

Although I have long thought that drug smuggling should carry the highest penalties, there is some doubt in my mind of this man's competence to stand trial. In the UK, I think there is serious doubt that he would be allowed to enter a plea due to lack of mental capacity.

However, the UK's behaviour over this has proven how weak we now are as a nation. Did we stop unloading Chinese vessels, did we stamp a high tariff on Chinese goods in protest.

No, because we no longer have the power as a nation to do this, only the commission can do this as all international trade falls under EU law now.

English Pensioner said...

The question regarding mental conditions is simple: "does it or does it not cause the sufferer to no longer be able to distinguish right from wrong". Leg-iron say, and I have no reason to dispute it, that bipolar disorder does not affect the intelligence, and thus his mental condition is totally irrelevant. I would also suggest that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for someone suffering from a mental condition which did not allow them to know they were doing wrong, to travel alone to somewhere like China. Where did his fares come from?
The only real question is whether he received justice under Chinese law, and the answer here is probably not compared with western standards. On the other hand it is their justice and I thought we were opposed to interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.
And to give the Chinese credit, they aren't stupid; I'm sure that if there had been any genuine doubt they would not have taken this action as I don't think that they have any wish to deliberately upset Britain or any other country. But once public protests started, there is no way that they would be prepared to loose face and the outcome was inevitable.

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