|Serge Atlaoui: "I'm not a drug baron"|
François Hollande says Indonesia faces ‘consequences’ if Serge Atlaoui is put to death over drug offences after execution of eight other offenders
Paris has stepped up diplomatic efforts to save a French welder from death row in Indonesia after the execution of eight drug offenders provoked international condemnation.
Serge Atlaoui, 51, was originally among the group to be executed but was granted a temporary reprieve after Indonesia agreed to allow a legal appeal to run its course. He remains on death row.
In Paris, a foreign ministry spokesman, Romain Nadal, said the French authorities were “fully mobilised to help Serge Atlaoui, whose situation remains very worrying”.
The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, told a cabinet meeting: “Full diplomatic efforts continue on this issue.”
Atlaoui’s fate is deeply symbolic in France. Paris, which abolished the death penalty under the Socialist president François Mitterrand in 1981, has campaigned for an end to the death penalty worldwide and its intense diplomatic efforts have meant that although France has prisoners on death row in other countries, no French national has been executed anywhere in the world for decades.
If Atlaoui were to be shot by Indonesian firing squad, he would be the first French person to be executed in 38 years.
Atlaoui is a welder from eastern France who first travelled to Indonesia in 2005 and was later arrested in a police swoop on an ecstasy factory, but has always protested his innocence.
The father-of-three whose wife, a cleaner, was expecting their fourth child, has said that in 2005 he was seeking solutions to pay off financial debts. He regularly travelled abroad for welding work and in the Netherlands he learned of a recruiter offering a job in a Jakarta suburb paying €2,000 (£1,440) a week, off the books, in what Atlaoui said he was told was an acrylics factory.
Atlaoui accepted and travelled to Jakarta where he installed industrial machines in a factory building, which he said was empty. He spent six weeks there, went back to Europe, then returned to Jakarta seeking his wages. He said that when he returned he thought the factory seemed odd, containing people he didn’t know and with areas out of bounds. Police swooped on the factory, which was in fact an ecstasy laboratory, and Atlaoui was arrested along with five Chinese nationals and a Dutch man.
He denied being a drug baron or chemist. He was sentenced to life, appealed and saw his sentence raised to the death penalty.
France has stepped up its pressure on Jakarta in recent days warning against the “serious dysfunction of the Indonesian justice system” in Atlaoui’s case. The French president, François Hollande, has warned that Indonesia would face diplomatic consequences if it executes Atlaoui. The popular Indonesian singer Anggun, who is based in France, has also implored the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, to pardon Atlaoui.
Widodo has announced his intention to clear the country’s death row of drug traffickers, insisting that narcotics are “a national emergency” that require an unforgiving response.
Source: The Guardian, Angélique Chrisafis, April 29, 2015
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