Indonesia rebuffed appeals from distraught relatives, rights advocates and foreign governments to abandon plans to execute 14 people, including an Indian, for drug crimes as preparations intensified at the prison island holding death row inmates.
A convoy of ambulances, most of them carrying coffins, arrived Thursday morning at the port town nearest to the Nusa Kambangan prison island, where the mostly foreign drug convicts will be executed by firing squads. Officials began tightening security at the prison several days ago, with more than 1,000 police sent to Cilacap, the port town, and the island.
The European Union and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on Indonesia to impose an immediate moratorium on executions and the Indian and Pakistani governments said they were making urgent efforts to save two nationals among the condemned.
Indonesia has not released an official list of those to be executed but the country’s attorney-general said 14 people would be put to death. Community Legal Aid Institute, which is involved in some of the death row cases, has given names for four Indonesians, six Nigerians, two Zimbabweans, one Indian and one Pakistani.
Lawyers and rights groups have raised serious doubts about the legitimacy of the convictions in several of the drug cases, including that of Pakistani Zulfikar Ali, Indonesian Merri Utami and Nigerian Humphrey Jefferson.
About 10 women protesting in Cilacap against Utami’s death sentence were taken away in a police van on Thursday. But Muhammad Rum, a spokesman for Indonesia’s attorney-general, said the executions are the “implementation of our positive laws” and will not be delayed or stopped. All the cases have gone through a long legal process including appeals, he said.
“They all have been given chances at all stages.” The foreign ministry also defended the use of capital punishment and the legal process.
In Cilacap, the sister-in-law of Michael Titus, a Nigerian sentenced to death, said his Indonesian wife was returning to Indonesia from West Africa in the hope she would be able to see him a final time.
“We will keep fighting to seek justice for our family,” said the relative, Nila, who used one name. “Michael is not alone. He has a wife, kids.”
From Pakistan, a sister of Ali made an emotional appeal to the Indonesian authorities to review his case. Family members said the Indonesian government had arranged a final meeting between Ali and his wife and mother, who traveled to Indonesia.
“My brother is not a drug smuggler. I swear he is innocent,” said Sajida Bibi. “I want to see my brother alive,” she sobbed. “Don’t send his body to us.”