"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Indonesia: French death row inmate Serge Atlaoui gets last-minute, two-week reprieve pending case review

Serge Atlaoui conferring with his Indonesian lawyer
Cilacap (Indonesia) (AFP) - Indonesia said Saturday it had officially notified eight foreign drug convicts that they will be executed, prompting an appeal from United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon to spare the prisoners and suspend the death penalty.

A Frenchman also on death row for drug-related crimes was granted a temporary reprieve after Paris stepped up pressure on Jakarta.

The eight -- from Australia, Brazil, Nigeria and the Philippines -- have been transported to the high-security prison island of Nusakambangan where they will face the firing squad along with an Indonesian prisoner.

"Today, just now, we just finished notifying every convict, nine people except for Serge," a spokesman for the attorney-general's office, Tony Spontana, told AFP, adding it would be at least three days until the sentences are carried out.

"We have also asked for their last wish," he added.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urged Indonesia to "refrain from carrying out the execution", adding that drug-related offences are not generally considered to fall under "most serious crimes", which is the only time the death penalty should be used under international law.

"The Secretary General urges President Joko Widodo to urgently consider declaring a moratorium on capital punishment in Indonesia, with a view toward abolition," a spokesman for Ban said.

Indonesian officials said earlier that Frenchman Serge Atlaoui, who was expected to be among the group being put to death, will not be included in the forthcoming batch as he still has an outstanding legal appeal.

Spontana did not give a date for the executions but a lawyer for Filipina Mary Jane Veloso said she had been informed she would be put to death on Tuesday.

The news that the execution procedure is under way, after weeks of delays, came after Indonesian officials met diplomats Saturday in a town near Nusakambangan. The consular officials then travelled to the island to visit inmates.

The foreign drug convicts have all lost appeals for clemency from Widodo, who argues that Indonesia is fighting a drugs emergency.

The Australian government said it had been informed that the execution of its citizens, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, was "imminent".

"Nothing can be gained and much will be lost if these two young Australians are executed," said Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

"I again respectfully call on the president of Indonesia to reconsider his refusal to grant clemency. It is not too late for a change of heart."

Minnie Lopez, a lawyer for Veloso, told AFP: "We were informed by Mary Jane herself that she received the notice that the sentence will be implemented on April 28."

The news of Atlaoui's temporary reprieve came after France dramatically ramped up pressure on Jakarta to change course, and President Francois Hollande warned Saturday of "consequences with France and Europe" if he was put to death.

Widodo has previously ignored the increasingly clamorous appeals on the convicts' behalf from their governments, social media and from others such as the band Napalm Death -- the president is a huge heavy metal fan.

The Australian government has mounted a campaign to save its citizens on death row, ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" heroin-smuggling gang, stressing that they are reformed characters after a decade behind bars.

Sukumaran has become an accomplished artist during his time in jail. After visiting him on Nusakambangan, one of his lawyers, Julian McMahon, returned carrying three of the convict's self-portraits with one dated April 25 and signed "72 hours just started", the Australian Associated Press reported.

Seventy-two hours is the minimum amount of time that death row convicts must be given before they are executed in Indonesia.

Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso
Earlier, Sukumaran's sister Brintha issued an emotional plea for his life to be spared, urging Widodo in a YouTube video to "change punishment for humanity".

Veloso, whose family visited her on the prison island Saturday, sent out a handwritten note from jail pleading to Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay, who has just returned from a visit to Jakarta.

"I ask for your help, save me from the death penalty. I have two very young sons who need their mother," it said. "I swear before God, I am innocent. I am a mere victim of evil people, even if many don't believe me."

The 30-year-old, who was caught in 2009 with heroin sewn into the lining of her suitcase at Yogyakarta airport, claims she was a victim of human trafficking and that she is not a drug smuggler.

The family of Brazilian convict Rodrigo Gularte have argued he should not be put to death as he is a paranoid schizophrenic, and his lawyer Ricky Gunawan said Saturday that the "execution of a person with mental problems is beyond logic".

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

Indonesia has some of the toughest anti-drugs laws in the world. In January, Jakarta executed six drug convicts, including five foreigners, sparking international outrage.

Source: Agence France-Presse, April 25, 2015

Recommended article:
- Indonesia’s Death Row Convicts Facing Mass Execution, The New York Times, April 25, 2015. Here are the 10 people facing execution by firing squad in Indonesia for drug-related offenses...

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