Indonesia yesterday executed four drug convicts, while 10 others due to face the firing squad were given an apparent reprieve in a confused process one lawyer said was a “complete mess.”
The executions on a remote prison island went ahead despite protests from international rights groups, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the EU, who had urged Indonesia not to proceed.
Four inmates — three Nigerians and one Indonesian — were put to death just after midnight. One of the Nigerian prisoners was cremated hours later, while the bodies of the three others were being prepared for burial.
Questions swirled about the handling of the process, which saw the other 10 prisoners scheduled to die spared at the last minute.
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.
Indonesian Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo said the 10 inmates had been returned to their cells, which suggested that their executions were not imminent.
“The fate of the other 10 we will determine later. We will see when the right time will be, but one thing is for sure — we will never stop executing people on death row,” Prasetyo told reporters.
Ricky Gunawan — whose client Humphrey Jefferson Ejike Eleweke was among those tied to a post and shot in the jungle clearing — said lawyers awaiting the grim news were kept in the dark as to why the executions did not proceed as planned.
“I would say the execution this morning was a complete mess,” Gunawan told reporters from Cilacap, near Nusakambangan, a remote island housing several high-security jails. “No clear information was provided to us about the time of execution, why only four [were executed] and what happens to the 10 others.”
Family members had already been shocked to learn on Thursday morning that their relatives would be put to death a day ahead of schedule.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has defended ramping up the use of capital punishment, saying that Indonesia is fighting a war on drugs and that traffickers must be heavily punished.
Yesterday’s executions were the third under Widodo since he took office in 2014. The last round was in April last year, when authorities put to death eight drug convicts, including two Australians.
The executed Indonesian was named as Freddy Budiman, while the three Nigerians were Seck Osmane, Humphrey Jefferson Ejike Eleweke and Michael Titus Igweh.
Another of Eleweke’s lawyers, Afif Abdul Qoyim, told reporters that the execution should not have gone ahead as his client this week filed a legal appeal.
“When this process is not respected, that means that this is no longer a country that upholds the law, nor human rights,” Qoyim said.
Amnesty International has identified what it calls “systematic flaws” in the trials of several of the death-row inmates and urged Indonesia not to proceed while appeals for clemency were pending.
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 heroin possession, leading to his 2005 death sentence.
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.
The National Commission on Violence Against Women, which has been lobbying for Utami to receive clemency, called for answers over the fate of the 10 remaining prisoners.
“We hope the attorney general’s office will provide a clear and transparent explanation,” the commission’s Sri Nurherwati told reporters.
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