World in Brief, Dec. 29, 2009

By Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
Epoch Times Staff
December 29, 2009 Updated: December 30, 2009

British Condemn China Over Execution

The British have condemned China over the execution of a British man, believed to suffer from mental illness, on charges of drug smuggling. The 53-year-old Akmal Shaikh, father of three children, was said to suffer from bipolar disorder and delusional psychosis. When mental illness is put forward as a mitigating circumstance in criminal jurisdiction, it can result in milder punishments.

“I condemn the execution of Akmal Shaikh in the strongest terms. … I am particularly concerned that no mental health assessment was undertaken,” Prime Minister Brown was reported as saying by the BBC.

Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis said that China has “failed in its basic human rights responsibilities” and that the execution made him “sick to the stomach.”

Spokeswoman for the Chinese government, Jiang Yu, in turn condemned the criticism, saying, “No one has the right to comment on China's judicial sovereignty.”

Passenger Scanner Might Have Stopped Christmas Plane Bomber

Dutch Airport authorities want the EU to make passenger scanners mandatory, according to the BBC. They say such measures may have prevented the so-called “Christmas Eve bomber,” a man who passed through Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport with explosive material, from boarding. Dutch authorities say everything went according to established procedures but that they were unable to prevent “potentially dangerous objects” from coming aboard.

Schiphol has had 17 low-energy x-ray passenger scanners since 2007, and these may have detected the explosives under the clothes of the bomber. These “privacy invading” scanners are not fully used, however, under present European rule.

Pirates Hijack Ships Again

Somali pirates hijacked a chemical tanker and cargo vessel on Monday. The two ships were hijacked 800 miles off the coast of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world’s busiest sea trade routes. Officials told Reuters that after the chemical tanker, sailing under British flag, and the cargo vessel, which is registered in Panama, were seized, there has been no contact with the ships.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, the waters around Somalia have been plagued by pirates hijacking ships and collecting millions of dollars in ransom. In December 2008, after the United Nations agreed to allow foreign warships to patrol the territorial waters of Somalia, the EU launched a navy operation to combat piracy and protect vessels passing through.

Putin Criticizes U.S. Anti-Missile Shield Plans

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that U.S. plans to build an anti-missile shield in Europe are the main obstacle in reaching a new deal on reducing nuclear weapons, Reuters reported. Putin was quoted as saying that the plans would disrupt the Cold War balance and would force Russia to develop new offensive weapons.

Currently the United States and Russia are in negotiations on a successor to the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, aimed at reducing the countries’ Cold War nuclear weapons, which ended on Dec. 5. In a response, the U.S. State Department said that the treaty would only deal with strategic offensive arms and that the two issues would be discussed in a separate venue, according to AP.