ASIA

Indonesia set to execute prisoners convicted of drug crimes

Indonesia is set to execute several prisoners convicted of drug crimes

On death row at Besi prison, Nusakambangan Island, Indonesia, an Australian prisoner married his fiancee on Monday. Another painted a haunting self-portrait, titled "The Second Last Day."

The two Australians, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, are due to be shot by firing squad in a mass execution likely to happen early Wednesday, along with four Nigerians, a Filipina, a Brazilian and an Indonesian, all convicted of drug crimes.

Photographs emerged Monday of an Indonesian mortician stenciling the names of the convicts and their scheduled date of death – April 29, 2015 – onto wooden crosses.

The process has raised questions over Indonesia’s legal system, after Muhammad Rifan, a former lawyer for the Australian prisoners, told Australian media Monday that the judges in the trial nine years ago demanded a bribe of $100,000 to sentence the men to less than 20 years in prison.

Some of the prisoners, including Mary Jane Veloso of the Philippines, have complained that they understood little of their court processes because they had poor interpretation and couldn’t defend themselves properly.

But political pressure in Indonesia to press ahead with the executions has been intense. President Joko Widodo, has declared the country is suffering from a drugs emergency, and in recent months has rejected clemency bids.

In January, Indonesia executed one Indonesian and five foreigners, including citizens of Vietnam, Malawi, Nigeria, Brazil and the Netherlands. Indonesian public opinion remains staunchly in favor of capital punishment.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged Indonesia to not go ahead with the executions, and diplomats representing the condemned prisoners have lobbied for the Indonesian president to show mercy. Amnesty International also called on him to offer clemency to the prisoners.

Brazil and the Netherlands temporarily recalled their ambassadors from Indonesia in protest after January’s executions. Australian media reported Monday that the Australian government was likely to recall its ambassador once the next round of executions occurs.

The eight foreigners to be executed include Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte, whose lawyers and doctors state he suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Indonesian law requires that people with mental illnesses be treated in a psychiatric institution, and not prosecuted. However, Indonesia’s attorney general has rejected claims that Gularte suffers from a mental illness, based on a police psychiatric report.

Veloso, a mother of two boys ages 6 and 12, is the only woman on the list for the next round of executions. She says she was duped into carrying heroin into Indonesia when she was offered a job as a domestic worker and supporters say she was a victim of human trafficking.

Her lawyer filed a request for a stay of execution Friday arguing that the court provided her English interpreters, despite the fact she speaks only Tagalog, so she was unable to understand proceedings or properly defend herself. However, a court Monday rejected her call for a judicial review.

An online petition called for saving Veloso’s life.

“Those who recruited and manipulated Mary Jane should be pursued, prosecuted, and convicted - not Mary Jane, who is a desperate and vulnerable victim of human trafficking,” said the petition, which had gathered 68,000 signatures Monday.

Four Nigerians, Okwudili Oyatanze, Martin Anderson, Jamiu Owolabi Abashin and Sylvester Obiekwe Nwolise are also due to be executed.

The impending executions have also stirred anger in Australia, which has outlawed capital punishment, with lawyers and supporters of Chan and Sukumaran arguing that they have been rehabilitated in prison and deserve life imprisonment instead of execution.

The two, who were arrested in Bali in 2005, have admitted their roles in a drug smuggling ring that plotted to bring 18 pounds of heroin from Indonesia into Australia. Indonesian authorities were tipped off by Australian police about the plot. 

Lawyers for Chan and Sukumaran Monday called for an investigation into the bribery allegations before the penalty is carried out.

“People should not be executed if the judgment came out from a defective process. The whole judgment must be annulled if it is proven the process was defective,” Todung Mulya Lubis, an Indonesian lawyer for the Australians, told journalists Monday. Lubis displayed Sukumaran’s painting, "The Second Last Day."

“We appeal to the attorney general, we appeal to the president, in the name of due process of law, in the name of fairness and justice, not to do the executions. This is not an act of desperado here. This is a demand for justice,” he said.

One of the self-portraits Sukumaran completed in recent days, dated April 25, shows a black hole in his chest.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the bribery allegation should be examined.

"These allegations are very serious. They call into question the integrity of the sentencing process and it’s a matter for Indonesia’s judicial commission to investigate these matters,” Bishop said. “This must be allowed to continue before any action is taken to prepare for executions. An execution is an irrevocable step and I believe that these hearings and these appeal processes should be concluded before any decision is taken.”

The prisoners were given 72 hours' notice Saturday of their executions. They are expected to be shot Wednesday after being taken from the prison to the execution site. Under Indonesian procedures, they are given the choice of whether to be blindfolded, and whether to sit, stand or kneel. They are tied to a pole and shot by firing squad.

Chan married his fiancee Febyanti Herewila in prison Monday. He and Sukumaran were transferred to the high-security Besi prison in March.

According to the government, 60 people are on death row in Indonesia, 34 of them foreigners convicted of narcotics crimes. Some analysts suggest the number of foreigners facing the death penalty in Indonesia may be higher.

Twitter: RobynDixon_LAT

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