Indonesian court rejects death row Frenchman's appeal

22nd June 2015, Comments 0 comments

A Jakarta court on Monday rejected an appeal by a French drug convict on death row, raising the prospect that another foreigner could soon face the firing squad in Indonesia.

Serge Atlaoui, 51, was due to be put to death with seven other foreign drug offenders two months ago but won a temporary reprieve after Paris stepped up pressure, with authorities agreeing to let an outstanding appeal run its course.

The execution in April of two Australians, a Brazilian and four Nigerians sparked global anger. But President Joko Widodo insists convicted traffickers must be harshly punished, saying Indonesia is facing a crisis due to rising drug use.

On Monday the State Administrative Court in Jakarta dismissed Atlaoui's latest appeal, in which his lawyers had argued the president rejected the convict's plea for clemency without proper consideration.

The court upheld an earlier decision that it did not have the jurisdiction to hear the challenge to the clemency plea, which is typically a death row convict's final chance to avoid the firing squad.

"We reject the challenge by the challenger," presiding judge Ujang Abdullah told the court. "We uphold the decision made by the head of the administrative court on April 9."

The administrative court had already decided that it did not have the jurisdiction to hear Atlaoui's appeal because granting clemency is the prerogative of the president, but his lawyers challenged that decision.

It was not immediately clear when the Frenchman might face the firing squad, with authorities having been tight-lipped on the subject since the last executions.

The legal team of the welder, who was arrested in 2005 in a secret drugs factory outside Jakarta, indicated previously they may explore other legal avenues if the latest appeal was rejected, which could potentially slow down the process.

- Maintains innocence -

The failure of his latest legal bid came after Indonesia's Supreme Court in April rejected another appeal -- a request by Atlaoui's legal team for a judicial review of his death sentence.

Several months ago, Widodo rejected pleas for clemency from Atlaoui and other foreigners, many of which had been pending for years.

He is among several foreigners who have sought to appeal against their death sentences since this rejection, but none has so far succeeded and authorities have accused the convicts of playing for time.

Authorities accuse Atlaoui of being a "chemist" at the drugs lab where he was arrested. But the Frenchman has maintained his innocence, claiming that he was installing machinery in what he thought was an acrylics plant.

He was initially sentenced to life in prison but the Supreme Court increased the sentence to death on appeal.

France has mounted a diplomatic campaign to save him, warning Jakarta of unspecified consequences if he is put to death and saying there was a "serious dysfunction" in Indonesia's legal system that led to Atlaoui being sentenced to death.

Indonesia pushed ahead with the April executions despite global condemnation led by UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

The executions of Australian drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in particular caused tensions, with Indonesia's neighbour Australia temporarily recalling its ambassador from Jakarta.

Indonesia has some of the toughest anti-drugs laws in the world. The country resumed executions in 2013 after a hiatus of several years.

© 2015 AFP

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