Mercy pleas for Indonesia death row inmates as families arrive

25th April 2015, Comments 0 comments

Families of foreign drug convicts set to be hauled before the firing squad in Indonesia issued desperate mercy pleas Saturday, as France warned of "diplomatic consequences" if one of its nationals is executed.

Consular officials and relatives were arriving at a town near Nusakambangan, the high-security prison island where Indonesian executions are carried out, and where all of the death row convicts are now congregated.

The foreigners -- two from Australia, one each from Brazil, France and the Philippines, and four from Africa -- have all lost appeals for clemency from President Joko Widodo, who argues that Indonesia is fighting a drugs emergency.

Paris stepped up pressure on Jakarta Saturday, with President Francois Hollande warning of "consequences with France and Europe" if its citizen was put to death, while Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop urged a "change of heart" from Widodo.

No date has been set for the executions, as Jakarta is waiting for the outcome of an appeal from the sole Indonesian among the group, although the attorney-general's spokesman Tony Spontana told AFP one would be announced "in the next few days".

Widodo has turned a deaf ear to increasingly clamorous appeals on the convicts' behalf from their governments, social media and from others such as band Napalm Death -- the president is a huge heavy metal fan.

The family of the Filipina, Mary Jane Veloso, arrived at Cilacap, the town on Java that serves as the gateway to Nusakambangan. The father and mother, her two sons aged six and 12, and sister pushed through a scrum of waiting journalists.

"If anything bad happens to my daughter, I will hold many people accountable. They owe us my daughter's life," Veloso's 55-year-old mother, Celia, told a Philippine radio station.

"I hope my appeal reaches President Widodo."

- 'Bottom of my heart' -

Meanwhile the sister of Australian drug trafficker Myuran Sukumaran issued an emotional plea for his life to be spared, appearing in a YouTube video clutching a photograph of her brother as a young boy wearing a school uniform.

"My brother made a mistake 10 years ago and he's paid for this mistake every single day since then," Brintha Sukumaran said.

"From the bottom of my heart, please President Widodo have mercy on my brother... change punishment for humanity."

The family members of Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, the other Australian facing imminent execution, were also en route to Cilacap. The pair, sentenced to death in 2006, are the ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" heroin-smuggling gang.

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

Consular officials from the countries whose citizens face execution were arriving on Saturday for a briefing from Indonesian foreign ministry officials, said Charles Jose, Philippine foreign ministry spokesman.

Indonesia's Supreme Court has said the ruling on the Indonesians' legal appeal could be handed down as early as Monday, paving the way for the executions to proceed.

Veloso's lawyers on Friday filed another court bid to halt the process, as the Australians' lawyers have been doing.

But all the lawyers concede that such attempts are long shots. Indonesia says all judicial reviews and appeals for clemency have been exhausted, and that the legal manoeuvres amount to delaying tactics.

Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, described capital punishment as "unacceptable state brutality".

"Widodo should promote Indonesia as a rights-respecting democracy by joining the countries that have abolished capital punishment."

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© 2015 AFP

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