Indonesia Carries Out Controversial Executions

By Aditya Surya
150428-ID-executions-620 Chinthu Sukumaran (left) and Brintha Sukumaran (second from left), siblings of death row prisoner Myuran Sukumaran, react as their family addresses journalists in Cilicap, Indonesia, after seeing Myuran for the last time, April 28, 2015.

Updated at 10:57 a.m. ET on 2015-04-29

An Indonesian firing squad put to death eight drug convicts at a penal island in Central Java early Wednesday morning (local time), amid widespread international criticism and last-minute pleas from abroad for the government to call off their executions.

The eight mostly foreign convicts were tramped out to a field near Nusakambangan Prison, where they were shot at 12:25 a.m. Wednesday (local time), Indonesian media reported.

“We’ve carried out the executions,” the Jakarta Post quoted an official at the Attorney General’s Office as saying on condition of anonymity.

Nine convicts on death row were scheduled to die on Wednesday, but Indonesia on Tuesday spared the life of one of them, Filipina Mary Jane Veloso.

"Miracles do come true," her mother Celia told a Philippine radio station, according to Agence France-Presse.

Veloso, who is still on death row, was given a reprieve Tuesday, pending an investigation, after a person suspected of recruiting her as a drug courier turned herself in to Philippine police.

But President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo told reporters, "This is not a cancellation but a postponement," according to Reuters news agency.

Ire from Down Under

The executions of the other eight, however, triggered anger from abroad, especially from neighboring Australia, which lost two of its citizens in Wednesday’s executions.

Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were among seven foreigners and an Indonesian put to death.

The others were Indonesian Zainal Abidin, Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte, Nigerians Sylvester Obiekwe Nwolise and Okwudili Oyatanze, and two other foreigners whose nationalities could not be clarified at press time: Raheem Agbaje Salami and Martin Anderson.

Australia’s diplomatic ties with Indonesia had become strained over President Widodo’s refusal to spare their lives. On Wednesday (local time), they reached a critical point with the crackle of gunfire on Nusakambangan island.

Afterwards, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that his government was recalling its ambassador to Jakarta.

"We respect Indonesia's sovereignty but we do deplore what's been done and this cannot be simply business as usual," AFP quoted Abbott as saying.

Earlier, leaders of Australia’s opposition Labor Party condemned the executions in a statement.

"As a close friend and neighbor of Indonesia, Australia is deeply hurt that our pleas for mercy were ignored," AFP quoted them as saying.

"It was completely unacceptable for Indonesia to proceed as it did when critical legal processes were yet to run their course, raising serious questions about Indonesia's commitment to the rule of law."

But before the executions took place, Indonesian Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo told reporters in Jakarta that the Australians had exhausted their legal options, because an administrative court had rejected appeals of their death sentences.

“Everyone knows exactly that clemency could not be changed, because it is the prerogative of the president as head of state and it is set in the constitution, " he said, according to AFP.

Jokowi and members of his cabinet had stated repeatedly that they would not waver in their determination to deter drug abuse, a growing problem in Indonesia, by condemning convicted drug smugglers to death.

The final hours

After the executions had been held up for weeks, the condemned inmates were notified over the weekend that they would be executed in 72 hours, according to news reports.

Earlier on Tuesday, ambulances bearing coffins reserved for the condemned men traveled by ferry to the penal island. Indonesian marksmen were also seen making the short crossing to Nusakambangan in preparation for the executions.

According to Reuters, 12 marksmen were assigned for each of the prisoners. The sharpshooters were to aim for the heart, and each of the prisoners were to have a choice of being blind-folded and standing, kneeling or sitting in front of the firing line.  

And as the clock ticked down to the executions, the families of the condemned were given till 8 p.m. on Tuesday to visit their loved ones at Nusakambangan and say goodbye.

"I won't see him again," Raji Sukumaran, the mother of Myuran Sukumaran, told reporters after visiting her son Tuesday.

"They're going to take him at midnight and shoot him. I'm asking the government not to kill him. Please don't kill him today," Reuters quoted her as saying.


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