5 reactions to the execution of Akmal Shaikh

The Sadness

There can be no more poignant summary of the sadness felt by many at the outcome of the campaign to save Akmal Shaikh than this statement issued by Reprieve UK on behalf of his surviving family:


We are deeply saddened, stunned and disappointed at the news of the execution of our beloved cousin, Akmal. This was carried out this morning despite repeated requests for clemency and a proper appraisal of Akmal’s mental state.

We are astonished at suggestions that Akmal himself should have provided evidence of his own fragile state of mind. We find it ludicrous that any mentally ill person should be expected to provide this, especially when this was apparently bipolar disorder, in which we understand the sufferer has a distorted view of the world, including his own condition. That this was regarded as sufficient grounds for refusal by the judicial authorities to order any mental health assessment is shocking to us.

(Photo Courtesy of AP Photos :

Despite our own and other pleas, the Chinese authorities have maintained their refusal to investigate Akmal’s mental health. We are comforted that the authorities have confirmed that Akmal has been buried in accordance with his own and his family’s wishes.

On behalf of the family we thank the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, as well as all the other Ministers and officials for their efforts which were sadly ignored by the Chinese authorities.

Finally, we now request the media to kindly respect the family’s privacy and allow us the space to grieve.

Cousins of Akmal Shaikh, on behalf of the Shaikh family

The Fury

The Guardian Newspaper was expressing fury at the notion Akmal would be executed at al, and unleashed it in full this morning with a headline focusing on the outrage felt by those who have worked hard for and supported his reprieve.

The language used throughout this piece reflects the frustration, ire and sadness felt by British leaders and campaigners alike. The BBC during the course of the evening had described the conversation yesterday between Foreign Office representatives and Chinese oficals as ‘a frank exchange of views’, which, they conceded, was a metaphor for a full-on argument. China’s record on Human Rights is not good, and the widespread exposure of this case has done nothing to further their reputation.

The BBC have provided a short collection of responses to the execution here.

The Bile

Despite its full and fair coverage of the Akmal Shaikh story this morning, the Daily Mail is also guilty of having allowed the online publication of this utterly repugnant piece by columnist Leo McKinstry. He states

“The British government, with its prattle about human rights, likes to think a refusal to use capital punishment is a badge of a civilised society. The truth is the willingness to execute dangerous criminals is a sign of compassion. It means a government is determined to protect the vulnerable and maintain morality.”

He concludes by saying

There is nothing barbaric about the death penalty. The real barbarism lies in refusing to punish criminals.”

Demonstrating once again, as so many proponents of capital punishment do, that he has missed the point. No-one is saying that drug trafficking is not evil and reprehensible. No-one is saying crime should go unpunished. His sophistry also displays utter ignorance – that anyone could suggest that there is nothing barbaric about the death penalty has clearly done no meaningful research on the matter whatsoever. 

It never ceases to amaze me that a matter which seems so instinctive to myself can be so twisted by hatred by others.

I apologise to all here and now for driving traffic to the Daily Mail website. As we all know the stance of the Daily Mail is to drive circulation through whatever editorial means possible. If in doubt, scan the Wikipedia entries concerning the Daily Mail and founder Viscount Rothermere and his successors to form your own opinion of how they play on hatred to secure their business objective.

If anything we should go out of our way to ignore the rag and make it hurt.

For further bile, if you have the stomach, simply take a look through the comments made in response to Reprieve’s video footage ‘Final Plea for Akmal Shaikh’. In my mind this is nothing more than desecration of a tombstone. Unbelievable. I wonder how those gainsayers would react if Reprieve were to leap to the defence of them, or one of their friends or relatives in international jeopardy?

The Chinese Response

There has been no official response to or report of the execution yet across Chinese news channels. However the sense is one of stubborn and righteous indignation:

In Beijing the Chinese government said it resisted any interference in its judicial affairs. “We express strong dissatisfaction and opposition to the British reaction,” said Jiang Yu, a foreign ministry spokeswoman. “We hope the British side will face this case squarely and not put new obstacles in the way of relations between Britain and China.”

(Source: The Guardian)

Comment on articles and Youtube footage included Chinese viewpoints, defensive of their country’s action and taking the view that Akmal Shaikh was first and foremost a drug trafficker.

The impact

In the words of the Guardian, “experts said the long-term impact would be small….”

“The two sides are just posturing for their own citizens,” said Wu Qiang of Tsinghua University. “Akmal Shaikh is only an isolated case. Unless the UK raises the issue to the EU level I don’t think there will be big influence on relations.”

I like to think there is an impact of a different kind. We simply cannot overlook the social web influence factor any more. Last night, several of us on Twitter tried and failed to get the #SaveAkmal hashtag to trend (i.e. reach the list of top topics currently being mentioned in the community.). But with every high-profile case of this kind we obtain a little more awareness of the inhumanity and irrationality of Capital Punishment. Today, the name Akmal Shaikh has reached the volumes required in Twitter for it to trend. It all helps!!

It is my fervent hope that the ultimate impact of the doomed campaign to save Akmal Shaikh wil be another baby-step towards the eventual elimination of the Death Penalty in every nation.

If you oppose the Death Penalty, please consider following @TheOptimismClub on Twitter and joining the Facebook Group


December 29, 2009 - Posted by | Akmal Shaikh, death penalty, news, reprieve, The Optimism Club

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