A Jakarta court sentenced eight Taiwanese to death Thursday on charges of trying to smuggle in about 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) of crystal methamphetamine last year, the latest foreigners to face a prospective firing squad over Indonesia’s strict anti-narcotics laws.
The eight defendants, all men, were considering whether to appeal the verdict handed down at the South Jakarta Court, their lawyer said. They were found guilty of conspiring to bring in a shipment valued at U.S. $144 million (2 trillion rupiah), officials said.
“The defendants knew what they brought was shabu [methamphetamine] and were aware that they could face severe punishment, but were still doing it,” Chief Judge Effendi Mukhtar said in reading the verdict.
“So the element of evil conspiracy against the law in the form of facilitating the distribution of drugs is fulfilled validly,” he added.
The stash was brought in aboard a Sierra Leone-flagged ship, the “Wanderlust,” when it docked at the port of Anyer, near Jakarta, in July 2017, authorities said.
Three of the defendants – Liao Guan Yu (22), Chen Wei Cyuan (22), and Hsu Yung Li (37) – were arrested during a raid by police at a hotel in Anyer on July 13, 2017.
The three men and another Taiwanese national, Lin Ming Hui, were allegedly picking up the meth, packed in 51 sacks, when the raid occurred. Police shot and killed Lin Ming Hui.
The five other defendants – Juang Jin Sheng (42), Sun Kuo Tai (37), Sun Chih Feng (40), Kuo Chun Yuan (44), and Tsai Chih Hung (56) – were arrested aboard the “Wanderlust” three days later in Batam, Sumatra province as it was sailing to Taiwan, police said.
The decision to send the eight men to death row was weighted on consideration that the defendants were involved in an international crime syndicate whose drug trafficking could “damage the young generation of Indonesia,” Judge Effendi said.
After the verdict, their lawyer, Juan Hutabarat, said his clients would take some time to ponder whether to appeal it.
“What is certain is that we will include what have been put in the memorandum of defense. Later, we will re-enter [this] together with other considerations that we get from the judge’s decision,” Juan said.
Indonesian law stipulates that inmates on death row must exhaust all legal avenues, such as appeals and judicial reviews, before they can be executed.
‘Be merciless’: Jokowi
Thursday’s death sentences were the first in Indonesia since a court in Sumatra province handed capital sentences to four Indonesians who were convicted of possessing 134 kg (295 pounds) of marijuana.
Three months earlier, a Pekanbaru District Court in Sumatra handed down the same verdict to three Indonesians who have been involved in drug trafficking, for the possession of five kg (11 pounds) of shabu and 1,599 ecstasy pills.
Global rights watchdog Amnesty International said at least 262 people were on death row in Indonesia last year for drug and other offenses, but the country did not carry out any executions in 2017. Still, 33 people were sentenced to death over drug charges that year.
Since President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo took office nearly four years ago, 18 drug convicts have been executed by Indonesia, including foreigners.
In April 2015, Jokowi’s government caused an international furor when it put to death eight drug convicts, including seven foreigners. Two of them were Australian citizens Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, whose executions strained bilateral relations. Canberra condemned Jakarta’s decision to go through with the deaths by firing squad and, at the time, recalled its ambassador to Indonesia in protest.
Jokowi has since hardened his stance on being tough on drug dealers as a way to combat his country’s crisis with drug addiction.
Last year, echoing a hardline anti-drug policy taken by his Philippine counterpart, Rodrigo Duterte, the Indonesian president said publically it was OK for police to shoot at drug suspects.
“Be firm, especially to foreign drug dealers who enter the country and resist arrest. Enough, just shoot them. Be merciless,” Jokowi said in a speech in Jakarta in July 2017.
Data released in October 2017 by the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), showed about 6 million Indonesians were drug users.
Up to that point in 2017, Indonesian authorities had shot and killed 79 alleged drug dealers and arrested 58,365 suspects linked to drug abuse, the agency reported.