Eight drug convicts executed in Indonesia

Eight drug-trafficking convicts from several countries were executed by an Indonesian firing squad shortly after midnight yesterday, media said, but a Filipina who was on death row with them was unexpectedly spared at the last minute.

Eight drug convicts executed in Indonesia

The nine inmates, all convicted on drug charges, were given 72-hour notices over the weekend that they would be executed by a firing squad, prompting a flurry of last-minute lobbying by foreign leaders.

The UN had argued that their crimes — ranging from possession of 72kg (11.3 stone) of marijuana to heroin trafficking — were not egregious enough to warrant the ultimate punishment.

Earlier, Jakarta rejected last-ditch pleas from around the world for clemency to be granted the drug traffickers from Nigeria, Australia, Brazil and Indonesia, ordering their mass execution to proceed within hours.

A spokesman for the attorney general’s office said the execution of Mary Jane Veloso, a mother of two who was arrested in 2010 after she arrived in Indonesia with 2.6kg of heroin hidden in her suitcase, had been delayed.

He said the delay came in response to a request from Manila after a drug courier gave herself up to police in the Philippines yesterday.

People holding a vigil outside the Indonesian embassy in Manila cheered and clapped on hearing the news.

The proposed death penalties were condemned by the UN, and have strained ties between Australia and Indonesia in particular.

Hours before the expected executions, crowds gathered in cities across Australia to hold vigils for Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, holding placards and calling for Australia to respond strongly to its neighbour if the executions proceed.

Security was tight at the prison on an island off the Central Java coast where the executions were to take place, and a dozen ambulances, some carrying white satin-covered coffins, were seen arriving.

Indonesian authorities had declined to specify a time for the executions, which were due to take place at a nearby clearing in a forest. However, when a group of drug traffickers was executed earlier this year, it was carried out at midnight.

Officials said the prisoners were to be given the choice to stand, kneel or sit before the firing squad, and to be blindfolded. Their hands and feet were to be tied.

Twelve marksmen were assigned to fire at the heart of each prisoner, but only three would have live ammunition. Authorities say this is so that the executioner remains unidentified.

Philippine president Benigno Aquino said yesterday that he had made one last appeal to the Indonesian government to spare Veloso, arguing that she could be a vital witness in prosecuting drug syndicates.

Authorities on Monday granted Australian Chan’s final wish, which was to marry his Indonesian girlfriend at the prison.

However, they rebuffed last-minute appeals from Australia to save the lives of Sukumaran and Chan, who were arrested in 2005 as the leaders of a plot to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told ABC television earlier: “Should these executions proceed in the manner that I anticipate, of course, there will have to be consequences.”

President Joko Widodo’s steadfastness on the executions, which has strong public support at home, stands in contrast to a series of policy flip-flops since he took office six months ago.

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