Anguished families say goodbye before Indonesia executions

2015-04-28 08:21
Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. (Sonny Tumbelaka, AFP)

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. (Sonny Tumbelaka, AFP)

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Cilacap - The families of two Australian convicts facing execution in Indonesia paid an anguished final visit to their loved ones on Tuesday, wailing in grief as ambulances carrying empty white coffins arrived at their prison.

The family members of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" heroin trafficking group, arrived at Nusakambangan prison calling for mercy for their loved ones, with Sukumaran's sister collapsing and having to be carried, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

Chan and Sukumaran are among nine prisoners, eight of whom are foreigners, one Indonesian, facing death after authorities gave them final notice of their executions.

The families have been asked to say their final goodbyes by Tuesday afternoon as signs were mounting that the death sentences would carried out by early Wednesday.

Australian media have published photos of crosses that will be used for the coffins, inscribed with Wednesday's date, 29.04.2015.

An AFP reporter at Nusakambangan, the high-security prison where the prisoners are awaiting their sentence, said ambulances carrying the empty white coffins arrived on Tuesday.

'Dignity denied'

The convicts, who have been held in isolation cells since the weekend, also include nationals from Brazil, the Philippines and Nigeria.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has signalled his determination to push on with the executions despite mounting international condemnation.

Indonesian Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo told AFP that authorities will not announce a date before the executions.

The families of Chan and Sukumaran, who have been visiting them frequently in recent days, were unable to control their emotion as they arrived at Cilacap, the town that serves as the gateway to Nusakambangan.

Members of Sukumaran's family screamed and cried out "mercy" as they walked in a slow procession to the port.

Sukumaran's sister Brintha wailed and called out her brother's name, collapsing into the arms of family members who had to carry her.

Chan's mother was shielded by family members but was clearly distraught as she passed waiting media.

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.
'Deep pain'

The family of Filipina convict, Mary Jane Veloso also arrived in Cilacap en route to Nusakambagan to pay a final visit but raced past waiting reporters in a van.

As they got out of the vehicle, Filipino priest Father Harold Toledano gave them each a blessing before they headed to the island.

"The family was so silent. It's really very sad. We see a kind of deep pain," he told AFP.

Death row convicts in Indonesia can request spiritual counsellors in their final hours, but the Australian media said that Chan and Sukumaran's requests had been rejected, with Indonesian authorities deciding to given them companions of their choosing.

"Last bit of dignity denied," Chan's brother Michael told Fairfax Media in a text.

Jakarta is determined to press ahead with the executions despite a wave of global condemnation led by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Australia has mounted a vigorous campaign to save its citizens, who have been on death row for almost a decade, and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has said the executions should be halted until a corruption investigation into judges who presided over the case is complete.

However Widodo, who is a vocal supporter of the death penalty for drug traffickers, dismissed the request.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Monday asked Widodo to show mercy, but Prasetyo said the execution of Veloso will go ahead: "We will not change our mind".

In Australia, celebrities including Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush released a video Tuesday urging Prime Minister Tony Abbott to fly to Indonesia to help save the two men.

Protesters gathered outside the Indonesian embassy in Manila, where they have been holding regular candlelight vigils for Veloso, calling on Widodo to change his mind.

"He [Widodo] wants to portray himself as a strong leader but by executing an innocent woman, he will portray himself as an evil man," said Sol Pillas, secretary-general of the Filipino migrant workers' advocacy group Migrante.

Read more on:    joko widodo  |  australia  |  indonesia  |  narcotics
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