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Families of death row inmates, fearing worst, head to Indonesia

Activists protest in front of the Indonesian embassy in Manila on April 24, 2015, in support of Filipina Mary Jane Veloso, who is facing imminent execution for drug trafficking in Indonesia | © AFP | Ted Aljibe

Jakarta (AFP) | 24 April 2015 6:35

Indonesia has advised consular officials to go to Nusakambangan — the high-security prison island where executions are carried out — this weekend, with family members preparing to make the same journey.

Chinthu Sukumaran, whose brother Myuran is one of two Australians facing death by firing squad, was making last-minute arrangements to leave for Jakarta.

“I can’t believe this is it. We still haven’t given up hope,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Graphic showing foreigners on death row in Indonesia
Graphic showing foreigners on death row in Indonesia | © AFP |

Michael Chan, whose brother Andrew faces death too as a fellow ringleader of the “Bali Nine” heroin trafficking gang, was also heading to Indonesia, the newspaper said.

Consular staff assisting a Brazilian convict were told by Indonesian authorities to be in Cilacap, the port town nearest Nusakambangan, on Saturday.

Lawyers for the two Australians were to meet Australian embassy officials in Cilacap Saturday as Canberra said it was “gravely concerned” at the signs that the executions are drawing near.

“Our ambassador in Jakarta is currently engaged in making a series of representations,” Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs told AFP in a statement.

Ten convicts — from Australia, France, Brazil, the Philippines, Nigeria, Ghana and Indonesia — being held on the penal island all face execution after losing appeals for presidential clemency.

Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipino maid whose two sons aged 12 and six have come to spend her final hours with her, was transferred Friday morning under heavy police guard to Nusakambangan, sparking protests in Manila.

Convicted Australian drug smugglers Myuran Sukumaran (L) and Andrew Chan at Kerobokan prison in Denpasar, Bali on August 17, 2010
Convicted Australian drug smugglers Myuran Sukumaran (L) and Andrew Chan at Kerobokan prison in Denpasar, Bali on August 17, 2010 | © AFP/File | Sonny Tumbelaka

“Indonesian government has ordered all prisoners up for execution with or without pending appeals to be transferred to the island including Mary Jane Veloso,” Philippine foreign affairs spokesman Charles Jose said.

“Lawyers and embassy were not notified in advance of transfer. We’ll inform you of developments as they happen,” he said in a text message to reporters in Manila.

– ‘Incomprehensible’ –

Diplomats said they had not been informed of when the group will be executed, with 72 hours’ notice required by law, but the steps underway suggest that an announcement could be imminent.

The Indonesian government has stuck to its hard line that the drug convicts must be executed, even if last-gasp legal manoeuvres are still pending, provoking fury abroad.

Serge Atlaoui, a French national accused of drug offences, is escorted by Indonesian elite police commandos on March 11, 2015 following a court hearing in Tangerang where Atlaoui filed a judicial review to appeal his death sentence
Serge Atlaoui, a French national accused of drug offences, is escorted by Indonesian elite police commandos on March 11, 2015 following a court hearing in Tangerang where Atlaoui filed a judicial review to appeal his death sentence | © AFP/File | Romeo Gacad

France on Thursday accused Indonesia of “serious dysfunction” in its legal system that led to Frenchman Serge Atlaoui being sentenced to death, and said his execution would be “incomprehensible”.

Drug laws in Indonesia are among the world’s toughest and President Joko Widodo, who took office in October, says the country is facing a narcotics emergency that requires the ultimate sanction for convicts.

Appeals to Widodo to show mercy have so far fallen on deaf ears.

Velosa’s plight has been keenly felt in the Philippines, were around 100 protesters carrying “Save the life of Mary Jane” signs in Indonesian Bahasa picketed Jakarta’s embassy in Manila.

“Mary Jane doesn’t have that much time. The (Philippine) government must show determination to save her from death row,” Garry Martinez of the emigrants support group Migrante told AFP.

Vice President Jejomar Binay said he appealed for clemency for Veloso during a bilateral meeting with his Indonesia counterpart, Jusuf Kalla, on Thursday.

“I appeal to you on considerations of compassion, and assure you that the Philippine government is exhausting all avenues to ensure that proper justice is served to those responsible for deceiving Mary Jane into having brought the drugs into Indonesia,” Binay said, quoting from a written appeal he handed to Kalla.

Veloso claims a family friend, working with an international crime gang, had secretly stashed heroin in her suitcase when she was arrested at Yogyakarta airport in 2009.

© 2015 AFP

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