Indonesia defiant as UN leads condemnation of looming executions

Nick Perry
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Children of Filipina drug convict and death row prisoner Mary Jane Veloso, Mark Darren, 6 (lower front C), Mark Daniel, 12 (C), and other relatives arrive in Cilacap to visit Nusakambangan maximum security prison island on April 25, 2015

Children of Filipina drug convict and death row prisoner Mary Jane Veloso, Mark Darren, 6 (lower front C), Mark Daniel, 12 (C), and other relatives arrive in Cilacap to visit Nusakambangan maximum security prison island on April 25, 2015 (AFP Photo/Azka)

Indonesia on Sunday signalled it was determined to push ahead with the execution of eight foreign drug convicts, despite a growing wave of global condemnation led by United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon.

Authorities on Saturday gave formal notice to the eight -- from Australia, Brazil, Nigeria and the Philippines -- that they would be executed by firing squad imminently, along with an Indonesian prisoner.

However, a Frenchman also on death row for drug-related crimes was granted a temporary reprieve after Paris stepped up pressure on Jakarta.

The group have been moved to the high-security prison island of Nusakambangan, where Indonesia puts condemned prisoners to death, and Jakarta says the executions could be as early as Tuesday although no official date has been set.

Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo told Indonesian news channel MetroTV that preparations for the executions were "100 percent" complete.

The convicts recently lost appeals for mercy to President Joko Widodo, who has taken a hard line against drug traffickers and refused to back down on the executions despite mounting international criticism.

UN chief Ban added his voice to appeals for the convicts to be spared.

"The secretary general urges President Joko Widodo to urgently consider declaring a moratorium on capital punishment in Indonesia, with a view toward abolition," a spokesman for Ban said.

Australia, which has mounted a sustained diplomatic campaign to save its two citizens in the group, also renewed appeals following Saturday's news.

"Nothing can be gained and much will be lost if these two young Australians are executed," said Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

"I again respectfully call on the president of Indonesia to reconsider his refusal to grant clemency. It is not too late for a change of heart."

Widodo refused to comment on Sunday.

France has stepped up pressure on Jakarta in recent days, with President Francois Hollande warning of "consequences" if its citizen, Serge Atlaoui, is put to death.

The warning came shortly before it was announced that Atlaoui had won a temporary reprieve to allow him to pursue a further legal appeal.

Brazil vowed to press Indonesia not to execute its national Rodrigo Gularte for humanitarian reasons, saying he suffers from schizophrenia.

- No backing down -

Despite the appeals, Indonesia has shown little sign it is willing to back down and the foreign ministry indicated Sunday that Ban's statement would not change their plans.

"We note the statement by the UN but we also note that there was no similar statement made when recently two Indonesians were executed," ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told AFP, referring to the execution this month of Indonesian domestic workers in Saudi Arabia.

He added that it was "not the intention of Indonesia" to damage ties with other countries.

The executions have been delayed for weeks, with Indonesia coming close to carrying them out in February, but then agreeing to let final legal appeals be resolved following an international outcry.

However Saturday's announcement signals they are finally going ahead.

While Jakarta has not announced a date, lawyers for two of the convicts -- the Filipina and one of the Nigerians -- said they had been informed it would be on Tuesday.

Authorities have said they are awaiting the outcome of the appeal by the sole Indonesian in the group, which could come as early as Monday.

Relatives of the condemned prisoners have been rushing to Cilacap, the town that serves as the gateway to Nusakambangan.

The family of the Australians, heroin traffickers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, arrived Saturday to visit the men, crossing over to Nusakambangan accompanied by embassy officials.

"We ask that the president please, please show mercy," Sukumaran's brother Chinthu told reporters.

Echoing his plea, Chan's brother Michael said, "He's the only one that can stop it."

"It's not too late to do so," he added. "I please ask the president, please show mercy."

Relatives of Filipina Mary Jane Veloso, including her sons aged six and 12, went to see her Saturday and again on Sunday, while families of Gularte and one of the Nigerians also visited.

Veloso's lawyer Edre Olalia said her legal team had filed a request for a second judicial review of her case and Indonesian authorities had promised to let all appeals run their course before the executions.

"We are not giving up, we will never give up," Olalia told reporters in Cilacap, adding that Veloso was "an innocent mother".

Gularte's lawyer Ricky Gunawan said his legal team would also submit a request for a second judicial review of his case on Monday as well as medical proof of his mental illness.

He said he met Gularte to discuss the legal process "but unfortunately his mental capacity is not adequate to understand about situation now he is facing".

Three of the African traffickers are confirmed as being from Nigeria. However it is not clear whether the fourth holds Ghanaian or Nigerian nationality.

Indonesia has some of the world's toughest anti-drugs laws. In January it executed six drug convicts including five foreigners, sparking international outrage.