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October 17, 2009

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Briton loses last appeal over his death sentence in drug case

BRITISH drug trafficker Akmal Shaikh lost his final appeal against a death sentence in Beijing last week, and despite opposition from the United Kingdom, legal experts say the sentence is in line with Chinese law.

Shaikh's final verdict came after two failed appeals since last October, when he was sentenced to death by the Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The 53-year-old was caught carrying 4 kilograms of heroin at the Urumqi airport.

Wang Zhenmin, dean of Tsinghua University Law School in Beijing, said all people who commit crimes in China are subject to Chinese law, which stipulates that those trafficking in more than 50 grams of heroin can be sentenced to death.

Ma Zhaoxu, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said on Tuesday that the case was being reviewed by the Supreme People's Court.

Some people in the UK have called for Chinese courts to commute Shaikh's death sentence. The British Embassy in China and a British organization proposed a psychiatric assessment of the defendant, Ma said.

But Shaikh has already said there is no history of mental disorder in his family, according to Ma. He said the court had guaranteed the defendant's rights by hiring interpreters and allowing him and his lawyer to argue his case at trial.

"Only evidence of mental instability could get Shaikh a reprieve from capital punishment," Wang from Tsinghua said. "And the judgment should be made based on Chinese jurisdictional assessments, not on subjective opinions."

Huang Jingping, professor of criminal law at the Renmin University of China, said family medical history constituted important evidence in judging whether a defendant suffered mental problems, among other key factors such as judicial opinions based on the suspect's behavior and his motives.

"The courts must have made careful judgments if the initial verdict was upheld after more than one appeal," Huang said.

Jeremy Gray, a British executive at the American company Grace Construction Products, said he is against the death penalty, but he also understands that foreigners have to comply with local laws and accept the consequences if they break those laws.

British student Eugene Liu, who is studying law at Tsinghua University, said that any jurisdictional issues should be handled under the law without political influence.


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