Indonesia executes drug smugglers by firing squad

Executions of eight out of nine convicts carried out despite plea by Australia to investigate judicial corruption.

Indonesia executions
A coffin bearing the body of Indonesian drug convict Zainal Abidin was buried in Cilacap several hours after his execution [AFP]

Indonesia has executed eight out of nine drug convicts by firing squad despite last-ditch appeals by Australia’s foreign minister for a stay of execution so that claims of corruption during the trials of two Australian prisoners could be investigated.

The executions were carried out after midnight (17:30 GMT) at Besi prison on Nusakambangan Island on Tuesday, after the inmates were given 72-hours notice.

Australia on Wednesday took the unprecedented step of recalling its ambassador to Indonesia in protest against the executions, in which two of its citizens, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, were killed.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the relationship with Jakarta “has suffered as a result of what’s been done over the last few hours”.

“These executions are both cruel and unnecessary. Cruel because both Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran spent some decade in jail before being executed, and unnecessary because both of these young Australians were fully rehabilitated while in prison,” Abbott told reporters in Canberra.

“We respect Indonesia’s sovereignty but we do deplore what’s been done and this cannot be simply business as usual,” he said.

Over the weekend, authorities had asked the nine convicts, which included four Nigerian men, one man each from Brazil and Indonesia and a Filipino woman for their last wishes.

However, the execution of Filipina Mary Jane Veloso was postponed at the last minute after someone suspected of recruiting her surrendered to police in the Philippines, the attorney general’s spokesman told the Reuters news agency late on Tuesday.

Profiles: Drug smuggling convicts executed in Indonesia

Martin Anderson, 50, Nigeria, arrested in Jakarta in 2003 with 50 grammes of heroin.

Jamiu Owolabi Abashin, 50, Nigeria, arrested in 1998 at Surabaya airport with about 5 kilogrammes of heroin. He was originally sentenced to life in prison, which was reduced to 20 years by the High Court, then changed to death by the Supreme Court on appeal by prosecutors.

Sylvester Obiekwe Nwolise, 49, Nigeria, arrested in 2003 on arrival at Jakarta airport from Pakistan with 1.2 kilogrammes of heroin.

Okwudili Oyatanze, 45, Nigeria, arrested in 2001 on arrival at Jakarta airport from Pakistan with about 2.5 kilogrammes of heroin.

Zainal Abidin bin Mahmud Badarudin, 50, Indonesia, arrested at his home in 2000 with about 59 kilogrammes of marijuana.

Rodrigo Gularte, 42, Brazil, arrested in 2004 on arrival at Jakarta airport with about 6 kilogrammes of cocaine hidden in several surfboards.

Myuran Sukumaran, 34, and Andrew Chan, 31, Australia, arrested in 2005 for attempting to smuggle more than 8 kilogrammes of heroin to Australia as part of a group dubbed the Bali Nine.

“The execution of Mary Jane Veloso has been postponed because there was a request from the Philippine president related to a perpetrator suspected of human trafficking who surrendered herself in the Philippines,” Tony Spontana, spokesman for the attorney general said.

“Mary Jane has been asked to testify.”

Earlier, Filipino migrants had rallied in Hong Kong on behalf of Velose – a 30-year-old mother of two whose  supporters said was tricked  into carrying a suitcase loaded with heroin.

Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen, reporting from Cilacap in Indonesia, said while there was an outpouring of joy among Filipinos that Velose had been spared, there would be a different reaction from Australia after Jakarta rejected last-ditch pleas for clemency.

“The executions could cause a diplomatic fallout between Australia and Indonesia similar to earlier this year when the Netherlands and Brazil recalled their ambassadors after their nationals were killed,” she said.

Australia had mounted a sustained campaign to save its citizens, who have been on death row for almost a decade.

Chan and Sukumaran were the Australian ringleaders of the so-called “Bali Nine” heroin trafficking group whoe were arrested at the main airport on the holiday island in April 2005 for trying to smuggle 8.3kg of heroin to Australia.

The seven other members of the Bali Nine, all Australians, were jailed in Indonesia and did not face the death penalty.

White coffins

The families of the Australian convicts had paid an anguished final visit to their loved ones earlier on Tuesday, wailing in grief as ambulances carrying empty white coffins arrived at the prison.

Julie Bishop, Australia’s foreign minister, told media earlier in the day that she had asked for a stay in their executions, saying allegations in the Australian media that their judges had requested money to commute the death sentences were “very serious”.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said that such concerns should have been conveyed a decade ago when the case went through the courts.

A former lawyer of the prisoners, Muhammad Rifan, told Australia’s Fairfax Media on Monday that Indonesian judges had requested more than $100,000 in return for prison terms of less than 20 years.

But Rifan said the judges later told him they had been ordered by senior legal and government members in Jakarta to impose a death penalty, so the deal fell through.

Among the condemned on Tuesday was Brazilian, Rodrigo Gularte, who had been diagnosed by Indonesian medics with schizophrenia. 

Gularte, 42, was arrested in 2004 at a Jakarta airport after trying to enter the country with 6kg of cocaine hidden in a surfboard.

He was also sentenced to death in 2005.

Amnesty International condemned the executions saying they showed a “complete disregard for due process and human rights safeguards.”

“Some of the prisoners were reportedly not provided access to competent lawyers or interpreters during their arrest and initial trial, in violation of their right to a fair trial which is recognized under international and national law,” Rupert Abbott, Amnesty’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific said.

“Gularte, had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and international law clearly prohibits the use of the death penalty against those with mental disabilities,” Abbott added.

Fourteen people have now been put to death in Indonesia this year, and the government has announced plans for further executions this year.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies