Indonesia executes foreign drug convicts

2015-04-28 21:59
Chintu Sukumaran, left, brother of Myuran Sukumaran, an Australian on death row, arrives at Wijayapura ferry port to cross to the prison island of Nusakambangan, in Cilacap, Indonesia on April 28 2015. (Tatan Syuflana, AP)

Chintu Sukumaran, left, brother of Myuran Sukumaran, an Australian on death row, arrives at Wijayapura ferry port to cross to the prison island of Nusakambangan, in Cilacap, Indonesia on April 28 2015. (Tatan Syuflana, AP)

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Cilacap - Indonesia on Wednesday executed seven foreign drug convicts including two Australians by firing squad despite a storm of international anger, reports said, but a Filipino was spared at the 11th hour.

Authorities put the seven plus a local man to death after midnight (17:00 GMT on Tuesday) on a high-security prison island in central Indonesia.

Eight convicts - two Australians, one from Brazil and four from Africa, as well as the Indonesian - were put to death on Nusakambangan Island, MetroTV and the Jakarta Post reported.

However the Filipino, Mary Jane Veloso, was spared after someone suspected of recruiting her and tricking her into carrying drugs to Indonesia turned herself in to authorities in the Philippines.

"Miracles do come true," her mother Celia told a Philippine radio station, adding that her daughter's two young boys were awake and yelling "Yes, yes mama will live".

The Philippine government also expressed delight at the reprieve for Veloso, whose case attracted emotive appeals for mercy from boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao among others.

"The Lord has answered our prayers," Foreign Affairs Department spokesperson Charles Jose said, as activists holding a vigil in front of the Indonesian embassy in Manila broke into cheers and hugged each other.

In contrast, there was shock and anger in Australia over the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" heroin-trafficking gang, whose case has severely strained ties between their government and Indonesia's.

Steven Ciobo, parliamentary secretary to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, tweeted that "there are few greater displays of abuse of State power and regressive thinking than the death penalty".

In Indonesian executions, convicts are led to clearings just after midnight, tied to posts and then giving the option of kneeling, standing or sitting before being executed by 12-man firing squads.

President Joko Widodo has been a vocal supporter of the death penalty for drug traffickers, claiming Indonesia is facing an emergency due to rising narcotics use.

He has turned a deaf ear to appeals from the international community led by United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon.

There was swift condemnation of the executions, with Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International's research director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, labelling them "utterly reprehensible".

"They were carried out with complete disregard for internationally recognised safeguards on the use of the death penalty," he said.

Anguished visits

In the hours before the convicts were put to death, there was a flurry of activity as ambulances carried coffins to the island, and relatives made final anguished visits to their loved ones.

Relatives of Chan and Sukumaran wailed in grief as they headed to the island, and one relative collapsed amid a huge scrum of journalists.

"I am asking the government not to kill him. Call off the execution. Please don't take my son," said Sukumaran's mother Raji, in a tearful plea after visiting him.

Chan, who like Sukumaran is in his 30s, married his Indonesian girlfriend in a jailhouse ceremony with family and friends on Nusakambangan on Monday, his final wish.

Australia had mounted a sustained campaign to save its citizens, who have been on death row for almost a decade, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott repeatedly appealing for them to be spared.

In Sydney late on Tuesday about 300 supporters of the Australian pair held a vigil, with several people displaying signs calling for the Indonesian president to show mercy.

The execution of the Brazilian convict, Rodrigo Gularte, has also generated much criticism in his homeland, with his family saying he should not face the firing squad as he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Three of the African traffickers are confirmed as being from Nigeria. However it is not clear whether the fourth holds Ghanaian or Nigerian nationality.

A Frenchman was originally among the group set to be executed but was granted a temporary reprieve after authorities agreed to allow an outstanding legal appeal to run its course.

Jakarta executed six drug convicts, including five foreigners, in January sparking an international outcry as Brazil and the Netherlands - whose citizens were among those put to death - recalled their ambassadors.

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