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

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Russell Brand pleads for clemency for Bali 9 pair in video posted online

Andrew Chan, Myuran Sukumaran
Andrew Chan, Myuran Sukumaran
British celebrity says Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who are facing the death penalty in Indonesia, are reformed and executing them would be 'brutal' and 'immoral'

Russell Brand is the latest high-profile figure to plead for clemency in the case of Bali 9 pair Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who are facing the death penalty in Indonesia.

In an 8-minute video posted to YouTube on Monday, the British comedian turned social commentator has accused Indonesia of using the convicted drug smugglers as "human sacrifice" in order to conceal the country's economic dependence on illegal drug trade.

Brand is a recovered heroin addict, and said he was affected by the plight of the men who he believes are being executed in order "to make a point ... successive Indonesian presidents demonstrate their power by increasing executions."

"It's a gesture, an empty gesture, a mask and a veil that conceals the corruption on Indonesia and the true nature of international drug smuggling ... that drug addiction and drug smuggling is an essential black economy - it's part of our global culture."

The video, featuring a shirtless Brand speaking from what appears to be his bedroom, attracted 35,000 views in less than 12 hours. It is the latest in his YouTube series The Trews, which sees the comedian speak directly to camera and provide often didactic commentary and news analysis.

It comes three days after Brand tweeted to his 9m followers a link to the Mercy Campaign, which has been working to save the lives of the 2 men through legal channels, awareness-raising concerts and a public petition.

He joins a list of public figures who have come out in public support for the men, including writer Germaine Greer, broadcaster Alan Jones, actors Claudia Karvan and David Wenham and former Wallabies captain George Gregan.

However, public opinion regarding clemency for the men remains divided. In the video the comedian responds to online backlash, speaking directly to 1 commenter who called for the men to "pay their consequences".

"If you see society as entirely atomised, where none of us have any culpability, where none of us have any interconnection, where people are condemned on the basis of their actions, where there is no clemency, no forgiveness, no possibility of redemption, rehabilitation or change, then you're right.

"But I don't want to live in that world."

Brand said killing the 2 men, who have clearly illustrated their reformation, would show humanity to be "more brutal, more immoral than any kind of drug smuggling culture. That's a sort of peccadillo compared to the unnecessary execution of repentant humans."

He also called the men a "symptom of a much bigger problem" and demanded that Indonesia, Australia, the UK and US examine its relationship to the drug trade, including addressing social drug dependency and police corruption.

He also asked Liverpool FC to boycott the team's official airline sponsor, Garuda Indonesia.

Amnesty International is currently hosting an exhibition of Sukumaran's artwork in their London office. Sukumaran began painting several years ago under the mentorship of Australian artist Ben Quilty, and has since ran art classes for fellow inmates.

Last week Chan and Sukumaran lost their bid to challenge their clemency rejections in the state administrative court, with the men's lawyers now moving the case to Indonesia's constitutional court. The men are currently being held on central Java's Nusa Kambangan island, where they face possible execution by firing squad.

Exhibition details: Amnesty International’s Human Rights Action Centre, 17 - 25 New Inn Yard, London, EC2A 3EA from Monday 13 - Friday 17 April. Admission is between 9.30 am – 6 pm daily and is free of charge.

Source: The Guardian, April 14, 2015


Plea, prayers for life of Filipina on Indonesia's death row

Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso
Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso
Indonesian Catholics launched a national prayer campaign on Saturday for the release of a Filipino woman who is on Indonesia's death row for drug trafficking. 30 year-old Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, a single mother of 2 young children, was convicted and sentenced to be executed by firing squad after she was caught with 2.6 kilograms of heroin in her luggage at an Indonesian airport in 2010. Her lawyers said she is an innocent victim of an international drug trafficking group. 

Indonesia's highest court last month rejected a judicial review petition by Veloso, who is among 10 foreigner drug smugglers facing death by a firing squad.

The prayer campaign was launched on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday by the vicar general of Semarang Archdiocese, Fr. Sukendar Wignyosumarto. Earlier on March 31, Archbishop Johannes Pujasumarta launched a prayer chain for Veloso.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has officially joined the rest of the nation in pleading for the life of Veloso. "We storm heavens with prayers that she be saved from this tragic fate. We join the appeal to the Indonesian authorities to spare her the death penalty," said Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos, chairman of the CBCP Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, in a statement on Friday. The bishop pointed out, "Every life is precious as it comes from God." Like Pope Francis, the CBCP has consistently rejected the death penalty.

Meanwhile, the girl's family had received threats and is being stalked by unknown persons and fear for their lives. Family members have launched an appeal to the leaders of the Filipino bishops' conference, asking for help after some "unknown persons" visited the village and asked about Mary Jane's relatives. The "repeated" visits to the village of "suspects" began when the girl's story began circulating in the international media. "We are scared. We cannot even sleep. And I fear for the lives of my grandchildren, "said Celia Veloso, Mary Jane's mother.

There are about 10 million overseas Filipino workers, most of whom see migration as the only chance to escape poverty. In the past the government in Manila has warned citizens of the danger of being involved, even unconsciously, in the international drug trade. Worldwide there are at least 125 Filipinos on death row, many of them convicted because of crimes linked to drug trafficking. Last week the Indonesian Supreme Court rejected the request to reopen the case involving the young Mary Jane; Manila announced that it will forward a 2nd appeal to the authorities in Jakarta.

Source: Vatican Radio, April 14, 2015

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