Pubdate: Sun, 26 Apr 2015
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2015 The New York Times Company
Author: Joe Cochrane


JAKARTA, Indonesia - Two are young Australians portrayed back home as 
generally good lads. One is a Brazilian who is mentally ill. There 
are four Nigerian men, a female migrant worker from the Philippines 
and an Indonesian laborer.

They come from diverse backgrounds and circumstances, but all nine 
were convicted of drug crimes in Indonesia. And all are scheduled to 
die soon in a mass execution on a remote island off the southern coast of Java.

In what is believed will be the largest such execution in Indonesia 
in decades, firing squads could start the job as early as 12:01 a.m. 
on Wednesday.

A 10th convict, a French citizen, had been part of the group but won 
a last-minute, two-week reprieve late Saturday night, according to a 
spokesman in the attorney general's office, Tony Spontana. Mr. 
Spontana said the decision involved "an issue with the high courts" 
but provided no further explanation.

The executions, if carried out as planned, will follow those of five 
foreign drug convicts shot to death - along with one Indonesian 
convicted of murder - in the same spot in January, and are part of a 
campaign by President Joko Widodo to combat what he calls a "national 
emergency" of drug abuse.

He has rejected appeals for clemency from 64 drug convicts on death 
row, the vast majority of them foreigners, and plowed ahead with 
plans to execute them by the end of the year.

The effort has angered allies and set off diplomatic disputes on 
three continents.

Some countries, like France and Australia, oppose the death penalty 
under any circumstances. Others have attacked Indonesia's judiciary 
as corrupt and incompetent.

Christof Heyns, the United Nations special rapporteur on 
extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, has called for an 
immediate halt to executions in Indonesia because it was not 
following international norms.

He said in February that the six people executed in January and that 
nearly all of those to be executed in the next batch did not get fair trials.

Mr. Joko has rebuffed such criticism as foreign interference, and has 
demanded other nations respect Indonesia's "sovereign right to 
exercise our laws."

How those laws will be exercised is explained in minute detail in 
national police regulations.

On the day of the executions, sometime after midnight, the prisoners 
will be driven through the gates of Pasir Putih prison on 
Nusakambangan Island, where they have been held in semi-isolation, to 
a wooded site far enough away that other inmates will not hear the gunshots.

The first two of the prisoners, all of whom will wear special white 
uniforms, will be escorted to metal poles, where they will be bound 
at the hands and feet. They will be given the option of being 
blindfolded and of standing, sitting or kneeling.

Separate 12-member firing squads from a special mobile brigade of the 
national police - one squad for each prisoner - will stand 16 to 30 feet away.

After the condemned are given a few minutes to compose themselves, a 
police commander will draw a sword, signaling the two firing squads 
to raise their rifles and take aim at their respective prisoners.

The commander will then thrust the sword downward, giving the order 
to fire. Only three members of each squad will have live rounds in 
their rifles.

The same procedure will be repeated for the others.

The two prisoners with the highest profiles are Andrew Chan, 31, and 
Myuran Sukumaran, 34, members of the so-called Bali Nine group of 
Australians who were arrested in 2005 trying to smuggle 18.5 pounds 
of heroin out of the Indonesian resort island and back home.

While Mr. Chan and Mr. Sukumaran have admitted guilt, their lawyers 
have said that the judges who handed down the death sentences had 
offered to impose lighter penalties in exchange for money.

The Indonesian wife of one of the Nigerian convicts, Silvester 
Obiekwe Nwolise, 47, says the judges at his 2004 trial for smuggling 
more than two and half pounds of heroin into the country offered him 
a 20-year sentence if he paid a bribe of $22,000.

Lawyers for Rodrigo Gularte, a 42-year-old Brazilian, continue to 
demand that Indonesia's attorney general remove him from the 
execution list and transfer him to a mental health facility because 
he has suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder since he was 
a teenager. They have released medical documents from Brazil dating 
back more than 20 years, as well as evaluations by Indonesian doctors 
after his 2004 arrest to support their claim.

Under Indonesian law, any person with a confirmed mental illness 
cannot be criminally prosecuted.

The attorney general's office, however, recently sought an opinion 
from police psychiatrists who it said found Mr. Gularte to be 
mentally fit. The prosecutors have not released the evaluation or 
shared it with his legal team.

Mary Jane Veloso, a 30-year-old from the Philippines, was unable to 
understand what was taking place during her 2011 trial after, her 
family maintains, she was duped into carrying nearly six pounds of 
heroin concealed in a suitcase from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to the 
Indonesian city of Yogyakarta the previous year.

At the trial, she was assisted by a young interpreter who spoke 
little English. Though Ms. Veloso spoke little English herself, she 
spoke no Indonesian.

The lone Indonesian in the group, Zainal Abidin, 50, a burnisher at a 
furniture workshop in South Sumatra Province, sought a review from 
the Supreme Court in 2005 after getting a death sentence for 
trafficking 129 pounds of marijuana.

The court is required by law to respond to such requests within six 
months, but did not do so until January, nearly 10 years later, and 
only after Mr. Joko's execution policy began. The court has not ruled 
on the appeal, but is expected to do so on Monday.

Jamiu Owolabi Abashin, 41, another Nigerian, did not have a lawyer 
when he appealed his death sentence. His appeal was rejected.

"For those countries that exercise the death penalty, they have to 
make sure that the best mechanisms of the judicial system should be 
open to and exercised by the convicted person," said Haris Azhar, 
coordinator of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of 
Violence, an Indonesian human rights group.

"That's not the case in Indonesia," he said. "In fact, it's the other 
way around."

The attorney general's office, in announcing the reprieve for the 
French convict, Serge Atlaoui, 51-year-old a father of four, said 
there would be another review of his case in a state court but 
offered no details.

Questions about the integrity of Indonesia's judicial system, and 
pressure from some of its largest aid donors, have not shaken the 
government's resolve.

Mr. Joko has refused to take phone calls from Prime Minister Tony 
Abbott of Australia, who among other things has proposed a prisoner 
swap between the two nations to bring Mr. Chan and Mr. Sukumaran back 
home. He later offered to pay the cost of their incarcerations in Indonesia.

Mr. Joko's government also rebuffed requests for clemency by a 
delegation from the European Union in March.

While state prosecutors have criticized some of the convicts for 
trying to "buy time" by launching legal appeals, the government has 
created its own delays.

Attorney General H. M. Prasetyo said the executions would go forward, 
but not during the 60th commemoration of the Asia-Africa Conference, 
which Indonesia is hosting through Sunday.

"You wouldn't execute people during a high-profile government event 
with lots of visitors," he was quoted as saying by The Jakarta Post.

Correction: April 26, 2015

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article 
misstated the number of drug convicts shot to death in January. It 
was five, not six. (One of the six was convicted of murder.) The 
article also mischaracterized a step in the execution process. The 
prisoners will be given the option of being blindfolded; they will 
not be automatically blindfolded.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom