[Channel News Asia] CILACAP: Indonesia on Friday (Jul 28) executed four drug convicts, three of them foreigners, by firing squad, an official said, drawing swift condemnation from rights groups as Jakarta pushes on with its campaign of capital punishment.
Ten others expected to have faced the firing squad, including nationals from Pakistan, India and Zimbabwe as well as Indonesians, were not put to death but officials said they would be executed at a later stage.
Authorities did not give a reason for the reprieve, but the prison island where they were expected to be executed in outdoor clearings was hit by a major storm as the other sentences were carried out.
The executions, which saw an Indonesian and three Nigerians face the firing squad, were the first in the country since April last year when authorities put to death eight drug convicts, including two Australians.
President Joko Widodo has defended dramatically ramping up the use of capital punishment, saying that Indonesia is fighting a war on drugs and traffickers must be heavily punished.
Noor Rachmad, deputy attorney general for general crimes, said the latest executions were “done not in order to take lives but to stop evil intentions, and the evil act of drug trafficking”.
He added that “the rest (of the executions) will be carried out in stages”, saying that the timings had not yet been decided.
Amnesty International condemned the executions with the group’s Rafendi Djamin labelling them “a deplorable act”.
“Any executions that are still to take place must be halted immediately. The injustice already done cannot be reversed, but there is still hope that it won’t be compounded.”
The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the European Union had also voiced opposition to the plan in recent days.
Friday’s executions, which happened at 12.45am (1.45am Singapore time), came after a day of frenetic activity, with distraught relatives travelling to Nusakambangan island to say farewells to their loved ones and ambulances carrying coffins over to the heavily guarded penal colony.
The executed Indonesian was named as Freddy Budiman, while the three others, Nigerians, were: Seck Osmane, Humphrey Jefferson Ejike Eleweke and Michael Titus Igweh.
Eleweke’s lawyer, Afif Abdul Qoyim, told AFP the execution should not have gone ahead as his client this week filed a legal appeal. “When this process in not respected, that means that this is no longer a country that upholds the law, nor human rights,” he said.
Two people whose cases had raised high-profile international concern among rights groups were not executed.
The first was Pakistani Zulfiqar Ali, whom rights groups say was beaten into confessing to the crime of heroin possession, leading to his 2005 death sentence.
Syed Zahid Raza, the deputy Pakistani ambassador in Indonesia, hailed his reprieve as a victory and said it was due to diplomatic efforts in Jakarta and Islamabad.
The other was Indonesian woman Merri Utami, who was caught with heroin in her bag as she came through Jakarta airport and claims she was duped into becoming a drug mule.
At Cilacap, the city closest to Nusakambangan, family members were initially shocked to learn on Thursday morning their relatives would be executed in a matter of hours, having initially thought it would take place a day later.
Some distressed relatives protested their loved ones’ innocence, while 10 women’s rights activists rallying in support of Utami were detained.
It was the third batch of executions under Widodo, and means 18 drug convicts – mostly foreigners – have been put to death since he became leader in 2014.
His execution drive has shocked the international community and disappointed activists, particularly as hopes were high that Widodo, seen as a fresh face in a political world dominated by figures from Indonesia’s authoritarian past, would improve the country’s rights record.