CILACAP, Indonesia — Indonesia brushed aside last-minute appeals and executed eight people convicted of drug smuggling, according to foreign governments and local media reports Wednesday, although a Philippine woman was granted a stay of execution.
The Indonesian government has not confirmed the executions, but local media reported that the eight had been executed, citing official though unidentified sources.
Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo said Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso had been granted a stay of execution while the Philippines investigates her case, but he would not comment on whether the executions of two Australians, four Nigerians, a Brazilian and an Indonesian man had been carried out as scheduled shortly after midnight.
But gunshots were heard about 12:30 a.m. local time (17:30 GMT) from Nusakambangan island where executions take place, and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that Australia will withdraw its ambassador from Jakarta in response to the executions of two Australians, Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31.
“These executions are both cruel and unnecessary,” Abbott told reporters.
“Cruel because both Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran spent some decade in jail before being executed and unnecessary because both of these young Australians were fully rehabilitated while in prison,” he said.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff said in a statement the execution of a second Brazilian citizen in Indonesia this year “marks a serious event in the relations between the two countries.”
Brazil had asked for a stay of execution for Rodrigo Gularte, 42, on humanitarian grounds because he was schizophrenic.
Brazilian Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira was one of six drug convicts including foreigners that Jakarta executed in January, brushing aside last-minute appeals from Brazil and the Netherlands.
Brazil and the Netherlands withdrew their ambassadors from Jakarta in protest at those executions.
But there was relief in Manila when it was announced that Veloso would not be executed with the others.
Mary Jane Veloso’s mother, Celia, told Manila radio station DZBB from Indonesia that what happened was “a miracle.”
“We thought we’ve lost my daughter. I really thank God. What my daughter Mary Jane said earlier was true, `If God wants me to live, even if just by a thread or just in the final minute, I will live,” Celia Veloso said.
Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said “we are relieved that the execution of Mary Jane Veloso was not carried out tonight. The Lord has answered our prayers.”
There were cheers from the more than 250 Veloso supporters who held a candlelight vigil outside the Indonesian embassy in Manila.
“We are very happy. It’s euphoric here. Everyone’s rejoicing and waving their flags after learning that Mary Jane has been spared,” protest leader Renato Reyes said outside the embassy.
Veloso, 30, was arrested in 2010 at the airport in the central Indonesian city of Yogyakarta, where officials discovered about 2.5 kilograms (5.5 pounds) of heroin hidden in her luggage.
Prasetyo said Veloso was granted a stay of execution because her alleged boss has been arrested in the Philippines, and the authorities there requested Indonesian assistance in pursuing the case.
“This delay did not cancel the execution. We just want to give a chance in relation with the legal process in the Philippines,” Prasetyo said.
The woman who allegedly recruited Veloso to work in Kuala Lumpur, Maria Kristina Sergio, surrendered to police in the Philippines on Monday, National Police Officer-in-Charge, Deputy Director-General Leonardo A. Espina said.
Veloso has maintained that she was used as a drug mule without her knowledge.
Michael Chan, brother of Andrew Chan, who became a Christian pastor during his decade in prison and married an Indonesian woman on Monday, reacted with anger.
“I have just lost a courageous brother to a flawed Indonesian legal system. I miss you already RIP my Little Brother,” Michael Chan tweeted.
“Today we lost Myu and Andrew, our sons, our brothers,” the Sukumaran and Chan families later said in a statement.
“In the 10 years since they were arrested, they did all they could to make amends, helping many others. They asked for mercy, but there was none,” the statement added.
The executions were widely condemned.
“The execution of these eight people for non-violent drug offenses will do nothing to reduce the availability of drugs in Indonesia or other countries, or protect people from drug abuse.” Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance said in a statement.
London-based Amnesty International called on Indonesia to abandon plans for further executions.
“These executions are utterly reprehensible,” Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s research director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said in a statement.
Ambulances carrying coffins arrived Tuesday at a prison island and relatives paid final visits to their condemned loved ones as Indonesia announced it would execute the eight foreigners and one Indonesian man on drug charges.
Eight ambulances carrying coffins were seen driving through the port city of Cilacap, where the prison island ferry lands, more than four hours after the reported executions. They were thought to be carrying the bodies of the executed.
Sukumaran and Chan requested that their bodies be flown back to Australia. Nigerian Martin Anderson chose to be buried in the West Java town of Bekasi, and fellow Nigerian Raheem Agbaje, wanted to be buried in the East Java town of Madiun where he had been a prisoner. Indonesian Zainal Abidin is to be buried in Cilacap.
The wishes of two other Nigerians – Sylvester Obiekwe Nwolise and Okwudili Oyatanze – as well as those of Gularte, the Brazilian, have yet to be made public.
Originally, 10 inmates were to be executed, but Frenchman Serge Atlaoui was excluded from the latest executions because he still had an outstanding court appeal against President Joko Widodo’s rejection of his clemency application.
Widodo has vowed to show no mercy to drug criminals.
The government says Atlaoui will face a firing squad alone if his appeal is rejected by the Administrative Court.
The latest executions brought to 14 the number of drug traffickers shot in Indonesia under Widodo’s administration, which took power in October last year.
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