Global chorus grows against executions (The Straits Times)

Aquino says he will appeal for mercy for Filipino drug convict in Indonesia

MANILA – The Philippine President yesterday joined a chorus of global voices against the death penalty for drug offenders in Indonesia, even as the Joko Widodo administration signalled its determination to push ahead with executions of drug convicts.

Mr Benigno Aquino said he would appeal for mercy for Filipino convict Mary Jane Veloso, 30, who is to face the firing squad with seven others, including two “Bali Nine” gang members from Australia, at the high-security Indonesian prison island of Nusakambangan, where condemned prisoners are executed.

Indonesia gave formal notice to the eight prisoners on Saturday that they would be executed by firing squad imminently, along with an Indonesian inmate.

Only Frenchman Serge Atlaoui, also on death row for drug-related crimes, was granted a temporary reprieve on Saturday after Paris stepped up pressure on Jakarta. French President Francois Hollande said there will be “consequences” if Atlaoui is executed.

Although no official date was set, lawyers of inmates on death row said the second round of executions will take place tomorrow, The Jakarta Post reported.

“I will try to speak to President Joko Widodo of Indonesia to appeal once more for her case,” said Mr Aquino, who is in Malaysia today to attend the Asean regional summit alongside Mr Joko.

The Philippines has sought to have a second judicial review of Veloso’s case, citing evidence that she was a human trafficking victim and not a drug smuggler.

Philippine Vice-President Jejomar Binay made an appeal on her behalf during a visit to Indonesia last week. Veloso, a single mother of two, was arrested in 2009 with 2.6kg of heroin sewn into her suitcase. She insists she was duped by a drug syndicate.

Mr Joko’s resumption of executions for drug smugglers after a hiatus under his predecessor has drawn attention to South-east Asia’s largest economy. Australia has warned that the deaths of Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran – the Bali Nine ringleaders – may damage ties.

On Saturday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon added his voice to the appeals for the convicts to be spared.

Jakarta executed six drug convicts, including five foreigners, in January. Mr Joko, who believes Indonesia faces a drugs emergency, has rejected calls for clemency.

“I’ve already talked several times about it. I don’t want to talk about it again,” he told reporters before he left for Malaysia yesterday, reported The Jakarta Post. “Ask the attorney-general.”

Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo told Indonesian news channel MetroTV that preparations for the executions were “100 per cent” complete.

Many in Indonesia view drug dealers as akin to terrorists, mass murderers or rapists. A recent survey by pollster Indo Barometer found 84 per cent of respondents supporting the death penalty.

But not everyone is taking the hardline approach. Yesterday, 11 rights groups voiced their opposition to the executions, arguing that these are against the principles of human rights and there were practices of unfair trial.