Serge Atlaoui is one of the 2,200 French nationals detained abroad that Florence Cassez's recent release has brought to light [Cassez was sentenced to 60 years in jail for kidnapping in Mexico and recently freed by Mexico's Supreme Court].
As 40% of them, Mr; Atlaoui was arrested for drug trafficking.
Atlaoui, 49, was arrested along with five Chinese and Dutch nationals on November 11, 2005 during a police raid on a clandestine ecstasy laboratory in the suburbs of Jakarta (Indonesia).
The local impact of the police raid on the ecstasy plant was of such a magnitude that the Indonesian President himself visited the compound.
Initially sentenced to life imprisonment, Atlaoui was sentenced to death in 2007 by the Indonesian Supreme Court.
Atlaoui has been sitting on Indonesia death row since then. He is incarcerated in Pasir Putih, a maximum-security prison that houses 245 foreigners.
According to recent visitors, Atlaoui is "holding up". "He has no choice and he's doing his best to make it through this ordeal", his brother says.
In a phone interview with a French radio station, Atlaoui explained how time seemed long and painful in his Asian jail. "I'm 15,000 miles from my loved ones. It's hard to be alone in a foreign country. [...] If I were guilty, I would accept the sentence they gave me."
Serge Atlaoui claims that the harsh sentenced meted out by the Indonesian court is disproportionate to his actual role in the offense. A welder by trade, Atlaoui contends that he installed tanks, pumps, distillation equipment in what he genuinely believed was an acrylic production plant. Only at a later stage did he realize the true purpose of the site. He later described his role as "subordinate".
Atlaoui's lawyer says he will motion for a judicial review in the "very near future." "We must get his case reopened, his role was not as important as the court said it was", Atlaoui's brother says.
Atlaoui's lawyer believes that relations are improving between Indonesian and French authorities in the wake of Cassez's release in Mexico. "We have contacts with French President François Hollande's diplomatic adviser and we have a good working relationship with France's ambassador to Indonesia," Atlaoui's lawyer says.
A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry stated yesterday that "everything was implemented at the highest level in France and Indonesia for the death sentence imposed on Mr. Atlaoui - a punishment which France vigorously opposes – to be commuted to a prison sentence.
No death sentence has been carried out in Indonesia since 2008.
Sources: Le Républicain Lorrain, DPN Staff, February 6, 2013