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Indonesia readies firing squad

April 25, 2015

Indonesia has notified eight foreign drug convicts and one national that they will be executed. A French prisoner has been granted a temporary reprieve after Paris stepped up pressure.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Irham

News that Indonesia would grant Serge Atlaoui temporary reprieve from a mass execution pending a legal appeal came after France dramatically stepped up pressure, with President Francois Hollande warning Saturday of "consequences with France and Europe" if the country carried out the sentence. News for eight other convicted foreign drug traffickers and an Indonesian national awaiting their fate on an island prison (pictured) was not as good on Saturday, however.

"Today, just now, we just finished notifying every convict, nine people except for Serge," Tony Spontana, spokesman for Indonesia's attorney general, told AFP, adding that officials would take at least 72 hours, the minimum allowable period, to carry the sentences out. "We have also asked for their last wish," he added.

The condemned nationals of Australia, Brazil, Nigeria and the Philippines lost appeals for clemency from President Joko Widodo, who argues that Indonesia needs to take extreme measures as it fights a drugs emergency. The Brazilian is said to have been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Widodo has already ignored appeals on the convicts' behalf from their governments, social media and even the band Napalm Death, who had reached out to the rock-loving ruler as fellow metalheads.

'Not too late'

Australia's government has campaigned to save Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, the ringleaders of the "Bali Nine" heroin-smuggling gang, with officials stressing that the men had reformed after a decade behind bars. Sukumaran, for example, has become an accomplished artist during his time in jail. Australia has even offered a prisoner exchange with Indonesia to secure the two men's release.

"Nothing can be gained and much will be lost if these two young Australians are executed," Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said on Saturday. "It is not too late for a change of heart," she added.

Authorities informed the Filipina convict Mary Jane Veloso, arrested in 2009, that they would execute her Tuesday. Veloso sent a handwritten note from jail, pleading to Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay, who has just returned from a visit to Jakarta.

"I ask for your help," wrote Veloso, who says she was a victim of human trafficking. "Save me from the death penalty. I have two very young sons who need their mother. I swear before God, I am innocent."

In January, Indonesia executed six drug convicts, including five foreigners, sparking international outrage. In a disturbing trend, nations in the Asia-Pacific region have increasingly turned to the death penalty as punishment for noncapital crimes.

mkg/rc (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)