Indonesia Executes Eight Prisoners Convicted of Drug Charges

IndonesiaIndonesia executed eight prisoners convicted of drug charges.  Seven of those executed were foreigners.  Despite pleas of leniency and condemnation from around the globe the prisoners were put to death just after midnight Wednesday.

Outside the gates of Pasir Putih Prison on the island of Nusa Kambangan at approximately 2:25 a.m local time, convicts from Brazil, Australia, Nigeria, and one from Indonesia were executed by firing squad. A ninth prisoner Mary Jane Veleso, 30, a citizen of the Philippines was granted a stay of execution due to the Philippine’s government requesting her assistance in a human trafficking case.

On Tuesday a woman came forward and admitted that she had tricked Veleso, a mother of two, into becoming a drug mule. The Philippine’s President Benigno Aquino III made a personal plea and convinced  Indonesian officials that Ms. Veleso’s testimony was needed to convict the unidentified woman.  Ms. Veleso’s future remains uncertain, as she is still on death row.

Outside of the Indonesian embassy in Manila, crowds erupted into cheers and clapping when they heard the news that Ms. Veleso would not be executed at this time.

Indonesia executed eight prisoners convicted of drug charges all of them male, family and friends were able to visit with the men of Tuesday, but none were allowed to witness the execution.

This is the second mass execution  this year.  In January five foreign drug convicts and one murderer from the country were killed by firing squad.

Australia and the European Union, some of the largest donors to Indonesia have been angered by what has happened. Australian’s Prime Minister Tony Abbot has called the executions “cruel and unnecessary”.  With plans of withdrawing the Australian’s ambassador, diplomatic relations between the two countries have been described as dark.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran both from Australia were part of the “Bali Nine”, they were arrested in 2005 for trying to smuggle  18.5 pounds of heroin out of the country,  The pair admitted they are guilty but both said they have been rehabilitated.

Hours before the executions vigils were held in cities around Australia. People held signs and called for Australia to respond with strength if the executions were carried out.

President Joko who took office last October has said his country is facing a”national emergency” when it comes to drugs.  He has denied clemency appeals  to 64  death row convicts, the majority of them foreigners and all of them sent there for drug convictions. He feels his country has the right to exercise it’s drug laws, even after receiving pleas from around the world to cancel the execution, even pleas from the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon were not enough to prevent the executions from taking place.

Indonesia has sever punishments for drug crimes and after a gap of five years resumed the death penalty in 2013.

Some have argued that the Indonesian courts are corrupt.  Lawyers for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran both from Australia,  and the Indonesian wife of one the Nigerians killed, Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise, have claimed that they were offered lighter sentences in exchange for money by their judges.

A lawyer for Rodrigo Gularte, 42, from Brazil says his client suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder since he was a teenager and that these disorder should have exempt him from criminal prosecution according to Indonesian law.

The eight who were executed had their hands, and feet tied, eyes blindfolded and were given the choice of whether to stand, kneel, or sit before the firing squad. Twelve marksmen, of which only three were given live ammunition, were directed to fire into the heart of the prisoners.   This is done so that the executioners may remain unknown.

Amnesty International has said Indonesia’s execution of eight prisoners convicted of drug crimes is “utterly reprehensible.”

By Jessica Hamel



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