Thursday, December 4, 2014

Indonesian President Endorses the Execution of Five Prisoners on Drug Charges

New Indonesian President Joko Widodo appears to have dashed the hopes of human rights activists by endorsing the execution by firing squad of five prisoners on death row.

All five are said to be drug convicts, but statements by Mr Joko's ministers this week suggest the two condemned Australians, Bali Nine drug convicts Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, are not among them.

On some accounts, all five are Indonesians, but others suggested two Nigerians are among the number. They will die because Mr Joko rejected their clemency appeals.

Chan and Sukumaran appealed for clemency more than two years ago — appeals that sat untouched on the desk of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono until after he left office.

Mr Joko has not been quoted directly on the subject of the death penalty, but his Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Tedjo Edhi Purdijatno, told reporters on Thursday that the president had been very clear in a meeting that the five should be put to death "as soon as possible".

"Indonesia will enforce violations of the law," Mr Tedjo is reported as saying.

"The names? They're Indonesian people, all sorts. Later, the attorney general will explain who those five people are. We'll execute them, [but] we're waiting for a letter from the attorney general".

Indonesia's Deputy Attorney-General for General Crimes, Basuni Masyarif, was separately quoted saying at least 10 prisoners would be put to death each year to reduce the backlog of people who have been handed the death penalty.

A spokesman told Fairfax Media that there are 131 convicts on death row in Indonesia, 61 of them for drug related crimes.

The five who were in line for execution were all drug convicts. The surviving 56 "still have some legal avenues left, so they can go on" the spokesman said.

It had been widely hoped among human rights groups that Mr Joko would either abolish the death penalty in Indonesia or at least invoke a moratorium on its use.

Indonesia has an ambivalent relationship with capital punishment — its courts are willing to impose it, but governments have often been reluctant to carry it out.

Under Dr Yudhoyono, nobody was executed for almost five years until March, 2013, when a small group of murderers and drug traffickers were shot. Even then, though, authorities did not meet their targets for the number of executions to be carried out for the year.

Hardliners, particularly those in the drug enforcement authorities, regularly push for more executions.

The public and media were highly critical of Dr Yudhoyono for the small number of clemency applications he granted, particularly to drug convicts, and to Schapelle Corby.

But an anti-death penalty movement has begun in Indonesia, using as a rallying point the cases of a number of poor Indonesian guest workers - widely seen as victims o abuse - who have been executed in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia.

Prison governor Farid Junaedi, of Kerobokan in Bali, where Chan and Sukamaran have lived since 2005, said in August that he had recommended the pair for clemency.

They were caught at Bali airport that year plotting to bring 8.3kg of heroin to Australia strapped to their bodies. The Age Melbourne

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