"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." Oscar Wilde

Monday, April 27, 2015

Bali Nine: decade of turmoil for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran nears a gruesome end

Kerobokan 2010. Reverend Thompson Manafe, Martin Stephens (light blue
shirt), Scott Rush, Andrew Chan, Myuran Sukumaran and Matthew Norman.
Neither [Chan or Sukumaran] appeared in those first videos from Denpasar airport, of the young men stripped to their underwear, eyes wide with horror, as Indonesian police peeled sheets of tape and straps from their stomachs and thighs.

Chan was arrested later that day aboard a flight bound for Australia, carrying no drugs, just mobile phones. The police found Sukumaran in a Kuta beach hotel room with 350g of heroin and three accomplices. It was 17 April 2005, and the group – quickly dubbed the Bali Nine – had been under surveillance for a week, after a tip-off.

Sensational media reporting fuelled tough public judgments. Chan was the “godfather” of the operation. Sukumaran, a hulking “martial arts expert”, was the enforcer. What little sympathy the public could muster was saved for the drug couriers they had recruited, such as 19-year-old Scott Rush.

A wayward kid from Sydney, Rush had told his parents he was camping up the coast. But messages on his family’s answering machine indicated he had bought a ticket to Bali. His father, Lee, grew worried. “Scott never had a passport. He certainly didn’t have the finances to be able to participate in such a trip,” he later told the ABC.

Through a lawyer, Robert Myers, Rush contacted the Australian federal police. Myers warned that Scott could soon make a trip to Bali, that he feared the young man was being paid to smuggle drugs. Speaking to the ABC, Lee Rush swore the police had assured them: “Scott would be spoken to and asked not to board the flight.”

In court and in subsequent inquiries, police have denied any such assurance was made. “The AFP … had no lawful authority to stop Scott Rush,” Mike Phelan, then the AFP’s international network manager, has insisted.

The tip was passed to the Indonesian drug squad. Rush was among the first arrested in Denpasar airport. He later said an Australian officer was present at the scene, that he made a phone call, saying, “We’ve got ’em.”

Easily cast as villains

The trials opened in October 2005. All but Chan and Sukumaran pleaded guilty. Evasive, unrepentant, absurdly insisting their innocence, the pair were easily cast as villains.

In truth, the “godfather” Chan was a 22-year-old still living with his parents in western Sydney, a drug user working a dead-end job. A reputed drug kingpin, he drove a 1991 Hyundai coupe.

Sukumaran, also living with his parents in Sydney, had turned 24 the day of his arrest. He had wanted to escape his job in a mailroom, maybe use his cut of the deal to buy a car, or start a business. “You see all these people in night clubs with nice BMWs, and nice Mercedes, and there’s always chicks there,” he reflected later. “And you think, fuck, how do you do this on a mailroom salary?”

In February 2006 the seven couriers were each sentenced to life in prison. The court found no evidence to back claims by some that they had been forced to carry the drugs after threats by Chan and Sukumaran to harm their families.

For the duo, who were found to have supplied cash and booked flights and hotel rooms, it was death by firing squad. Anti-drug demonstrators outside the court reportedly cheered at the verdict.


Source: The Guardian, Michael Safi, April 26, 2015

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Indonesia: Executions will be carried out just after the stroke of midnight on Wednesday

drug-related offenses. One of them, Serge Atlaoui of France (top right), was
given a last-minute, two-week reprieve pending another review of his case.
Source: The New York Times, April 25, 2015
Executed on the stroke of midnight: Seven coffins laid out and Wednesday's date painted on to wooden crosses, confirming Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran have just hours to live. A local funeral director inscribed the names of those to be shot on crosses

Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran will be executed just after the stroke of midnight on Wednesday, it has been confirmed.

The date - April 29 - became official when a local funeral director in Cilacap, the nearest port to Nusakambangan, or Death Island, was instructed to inscribe the names of those to be shot by firing squad and the date of their deaths.

Funeral director Suhendra Putro, on Sunday was busily stencilling crosses and putting finishing touches to writing the names of the Christian victims and the dates of their deaths, reports The Herald Sun.

Photo - Clockwise from top: Mary Jane Veloso, 30, Philippines, crime: smuggling heroin; Martin Anderson, 50, Nigeria, crime: possession of heroin; Serge Atlaoui, 51, France (reprieve), crime: running a narcotics factory; Zainal Abidin, 50, Indonesia, crime: marijuana possession with intent to distribute; Okwudili Oyatanze, 41, Nigeria, crime: smuggling heroin; Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise, 47, Nigeria, crime: smuggling heroin; Rodrigo Gularte, 42, Brazil, crime: smuggling cocaine; Andrew Chan, 31, Australia, crime: smuggling heroin; Jamiu Owolabi Abashin, 50, Nigeria, crime: smuggling heroin; Myuran Sukumaran, 34, Australia, crime: smuggling heroin.

As well as the names of the two Australians, the names of Brazilian national Rodrigo Gularte, Nigerian, Okwudili Ayotanze, and Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso of the Philippines, were also written in white on the wooden crosses. The date '29.04.15' was also written in white ink and the letters 'RIP'.

It meant the condemned men and the lone female will be killed after the stroke of midnight on Tuesday night-Wednesday morning.

This was further confirmed by Utomo Karim, the lawyer for a Nigerian prisoner facing the firing squad, and also in a letter sent to Filipina maid Veloso.

'Each convict on death row was called in 1 by 1, for between 30 minutes to 1 hour, it varied,' Mr Karim said.

'My client (Nigerian Raheem Agbaje Salami) was notified of the day of the execution, it will be (just after midnight on) Tuesday night.'

Mr Karim added that the six others were also told the countdown to their execution had started.

'My client has received a notification letter that in 72 hours there will be an execution,' said Mr Karim.

'Families will have time to visit Nusakambangan until Tuesday 2pm ... it will be carried out on later on Tuesday after midnight.'

Sukumaran's last wish is to paint for as long as possible, while Chan's is to go to church with his family in his final days.

The men were issued with a 72-hour deadline on Saturday to face a 12-man firing squad, and both the Australian government and their families have pleaded with Indonesia to spare the convicted drug smugglers.

In previously unreleased interviews, Chan has told of the anguish he feels for his family, saying that it is not right that his mother will have to bury him.

Despite his impending execution, Sukumaran has not stopped painting, with the pair's Australian lawyer Julian McMahon coming off a boat from the island clutching a small collection of eerie new self-portraits.

One of them even had '72 hours just started' etched on it after he and Chan were told they are likely to be executed within days.

In a brief interview on arriving at Wijaya Pura port in Cilacap, Chan's brother, Michael, and Sukumaran's brother, Chintu, made more pleas to authorities to spare their brothers' lives.

'The 2 boys are holding up pretty well. Somewhere in the legal system there's got to be mercy. Please ask the (Indonesian) Prime Minister to show mercy,' Michael Chan said.

In interviews that have surfaced for the 1st time, the Australians spoke about facing the death penalty, but also of hope and their genuine efforts at rehabilitation in 2011.

The emergence of the interviews comes as their families have been seen making the journey over to Nusakambangan, Indonesia's 'Death Island', to spend their final hours with the pair.

Sukuraman's mother Raji and siblings Brintha and Chunthu were among those to visit him on Sunday.

Joining them were Chan's mother Helen, brother Michael and fiance Feby, among other friends.

It is unclear how many of the 10 prisoners Indonesia's has readied for execution will face the firing squad, with reports Frenchman Serge Atlaoui has been granted a reprieve.

Chan's comments from 4 years ago reflected the grief seen on his loved ones' faces as they made one of their final journeys to see the convicted drug smugglers.

Chan told AAP their imprisonment had 'obviously affected our families the most'.

'Imagine your mother, or you know, your father picking up that telephone call,' he said.

'It's heartbreaking. It's obviously harder on them than it is on yourself.

'You obviously look at yourself and you say to yourself, "I've really screwed up big time".

'It's not right you know. A mother's not supposed to bury their kid. Obviously a kid is supposed to bury their mother.'

At the time, Chan and Sukumaran were about to lodge their bids for clemency.

They spoke about making mistakes and paying for them.

'Everyone makes mistakes in life,' Chan said.

'No one's perfect. Yeah, we screwed up big time, and you know, we're obviously paying the price for it right now.

'The death penalty. You can think about it, you can let it lay within your mind but we choose to continue doing what we're doing.'

Entering Nusakambangan penal island
Sukumaran said in prison 'you have a lot of time to reflect on all the stupid things you've done'.

'You don't see what you're doing is really that bad,' he said.

'Working with all these people, like inside here teaching ... you get something out of it. I think that makes you a stronger person as well.'

Despite testimonials to their rehabilitation behind bars from prison governors to politicians, academics and Australian artist Ben Quilty, repeated legal appeals and calls for a reprieve have failed.

Chan and Sukumaran, convicted in 2005 for their role in a plot to smuggle 8.3kg of heroin from Bali to Australia, were given the official 72 hours notice on Saturday that means they could face the firing squad on Tuesday.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop confirmed the executions will be scheduled imminently on Saturday, but called on the Indonesian government to show mercy to the pair.

'The thoughts and prayers of many Australians would be with Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran,' a statement from Ms Bishop read.

'I spoke to Mr Sukumaran's mother Raji yesterday and assured her the government would continue to seek clemency from Indonesian President Widodo for both men.

'Nothing can be gained and much will be lost if these 2 young Australians are executed. I again respectfully call on the President of Indonesia to reconsider his refusal to grant clemency.

'It is not too late for a change of heart.

'Australia asks no more of Indonesia than it has asked of other nations where Indonesian citizens on death row have been granted clemency including for serious drug offences.'

Last ditch efforts to save the pair have also been launched by not-for-profit organisations, such as Amnesty International.

Thousands of flowers will be used to spell out the words KeepHopeAlive at a reserve overlooking Sydney Harbour in an appeal for Chan and Sukuraman.

Amnesty International says the floral message will be displayed from Monday at Blues Point Reserve.

'Today in Indonesia, up to 9 people - including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran - face imminent execution in as little as 72 hours,' Amnesty said in a statement.

'More than 140 countries around the world have now abolished the death penalty for good. It's not too late for Indonesia to join them.'

Members of the public are encouraged to contribute to the appeal by purchasing flowers from Amnesty's website.

A former inmate of Kerobokan prison has told of how he was baptised by Bali 9 drug smuggler Andrew Chan who helped him kick his 20-year drug addiction, told Daily Mail Australia he is heartbroken and struggling to cope with the news.

'I am really disappointed with the government and how they deal with this issue,' Matius Arif Mirdjaja said.

'It would be better to make sure justice rather than execute, better to secure rights rather than take them.

'It's definitely really hard for me to cope with this. I have to keep my faith.'

Mirdjaja also accused the Indonesian government of using the executions the 2 Australians as a distraction.

'This is not about law enforcement - it is a tragedy presented for public consumption,' he said.

'Government have lost their mind to gain popularity by execution; they use the drugs war to hide other issues that are more serious.' Mirdjaja said he spoke with Chan and Sukumaran two weeks ago, and the 2 were 'good'.

'Andrew is OK, Myu starting making a sketch. But they were attacked by mosquitoes.'

The 40-year-old started a bible group with Chan inside Kerobokan prison.

Since he was released in 2013, Mirdjaja has preached at churches in south-east Asia, while trying to roll out rehabilitation programs started by the Australians to help others at 17 different prisons around Indonesia.

Filipina Mary Jane Veloso's transfer from Yogyakarta prison is considered an ominous sign for the other prisoners, after Indonesian Attorney-General H.M. Prasetyo said the 10 death-row inmates would be executed together for the sake of 'efficiency.'

Veloso's sister Marites told Rappler her sister called her with the news.

She had been told the date in the presence of embassy officials, hours after her family had visited, according to the website.

The embassy of the Philippines was called to the same Saturday meeting, along with France, Brazil and Nigeria, who all have citizens listed to face the firing squad.

While admitting the summons has her worried, Ms Bishop said there was still time for President Joko Widodo to show mercy towards the 2 rehabilitated Australian men.

'He is the leader of a great nation, a dear and close friend of Australia,' she told reporters. 'We ask that he take into account our considerations.'

Ms Bishop's office says the Foreign Minister is seeking a phone call with her Indonesian counterpart, Retno Marsudi, who was unavailable on Friday with Indonesia hosting the Asian African Conference.

Indonesian officials say the Cilicap meeting signals the beginning of the 'execution process'.

On Thursday, Indonesia's head of General Crimes sent letters to the prosecutors of all 10 prisoners and ordered preparations be made for their executions.

The lawyer for Nigerian man Raheem Salamim, who is sharing a cell block with Chan and Sukumaran on Nusakambangan, confirmed Thursday the Nigerian Embassy had also received a letter summoning officials to Cilacap.

'Based on experience from the previous execution, they're going to tell them the date for the execution,' lawyer Utomo Karim said.

President Widodo told Indonesian news agency Antara while he would not interfere with the inmates' outstanding legal appeals, the executions would take place upon their conclusion.

'When it will be done is no longer a question,' he said. 'It is only awaiting the conclusion of all procedures and the legal process, which I will not interfere in. It is only a matter of time.'

In Gallipoli, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said efforts to save Chan, 31, and Sukumaran, 34, would continue.

'I guess there's always hope while there's life but obviously these are late days.'

The Attorney-General has already suggested that a Constitutional Court challenge will not be taken into account, believing the pair have exhausted their appeals options.

'My brother made a mistake 10 years ago and he's paid for that mistake every single day since then,' says Sukumaran's younger sister Brintha in an emotional plea his life to be saved.

Sukumaran's sister, Brintha, has pleaded for her older brother's life in a short YouTube video.

'My brother made a mistake 10 years ago and he's paid for that mistake every single day since then' she says, clutching a photo of Sukumaran as a boy.

'My family and I have also paid for this mistake as well.'

But he's become a good man after 10 years in jail, she says.

'He has taught so many Indonesian prisoners about art and how to live outside in the world and have a good and productive life,' she said.

'From the bottom of my heart, please President Widodo, have mercy on my brother.'


Source: Mail Online, April 26, 2015


Bali Nine: Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan refuse to sign their execution warrants

Mary Jane Veloso
MYURAN Sukumaran and Andrew Chan have both refused to sign their execution warrants, telling the prosecutors tasked with executing them that they believed their impending death was unjust, that they had been rehabilitated and deserved a second chance.

Their dignified and courteous responses, which at one stage brought a hush over the area where the process was taking place, came on Saturday when prosecutors went to Nusakambangan to deliver the execution notice.

And in his last days, Sukumaran yesterday expressed extraordinary compassion, telling one of his visitors that he felt sad for Filipina woman, Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, the sole woman in the group to be executed on Tuesday night.

He said Veloso had told him she was innocent. Sukumaran told the visitor that even if she wasn’t she didn’t deserve the death penalty and that to kill someone like her was just pretending to fight crime and drugs and it was “just killing the little person”.
‘Self Portrait, 72 hours just started’ by Myuran
Sukumaran. Source: News Corp Australia

He told his visitor that he “felt so sad when he saw her, she was poor and little”.

Sukumaran was the first of the nine prisoners called to learn his fate. When asked to sign the execution warrant, Sukumaran said he would not do so.

His reasons were then documented. Sukumaran told them that he was rehabilitated and that he had spent so many years trying to do good in the prison that he felt his execution was unjust and he had apologised to the people of Indonesia.

The men’s Australian lawyer, Julian McMahon, was with both men during the extraordinary scenes.

“The way Myuran conducted himself reflected the depth and strength of his character. He was calm, composed and straightforward given what had just been said to him,” Mr McMahon told News Corporation last night.

“When he received the 72 hours notice he remained dignified and peaceful. He spoke with courtesy and clarity to a hushed room explaining why he felt to proceed to execution was unjust,” Mr McMahon said.

Click here to read the full article

Source: news.com.au, April 27, 2015 (local time)

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Bali pair told the date of their execution

Australian lawyer Julian McMahon with three self-portraits by Sukumaran: 
"The 72 hours just started", "Strange Day" and "Our new friends: A bad sleep
last night". Photo: Amilia Rosa
Jakarta: The end has come for the Bali nine organisers and others on death row in Indonesia who have been told they will be executed on Tuesday night.

On Sunday morning the family members and friends of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran made the grim journey across to Nusakambangan to visit the Australians.

Chan's fiancée Feby Herewila, brother Michael and mother Helen and long-term friend and supporter Senior Pastor Christie Buckingham all boarded the ferry.

Sukumaran's mother Raji, father Sam, brother Chinthu and sister Brintha also left to visit Sukumaran in his isolation cell on Besi prison.

They will be allowed to visit every day until the final hours when only a spiritual counsellor can be present.

Karim Utomo, a lawyer for one of the Nigerian prisoners facing the firing squad, said Andrew Chan was strong after being notified of his execution on Nusakambangan on Friday.

The lawyer did not see the reaction of Myuran Sukumaran. "Each convict on death row was called in one by one, for between 30 minutes to one hour, it varied," Mr Utomo said.

"My client (Nigerian Raheem Agbaje Salami) was notified of the day of the execution, it will be Tuesday night."

The Indonesian government has not yet officially announced the date of the execution. However the Indonesia Migrant Worker Network said Filipina maid Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso had also received a letter on Saturday informing her the execution would be on April 28.

"Both parents, older siblings and two of Mary Jane's children are in Cilacap," the network said. "They cried upon receiving the news. Mary Jane's father said he'll commit suicide if his daughter's shot."

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said it was not too late for Indonesia to have a change of heart. "I again respectfully call on the President of Indonesia to reconsider his refusal to grant clemency," she said.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo will fly to Malaysia on Sunday to attend the ASEAN summit, which runs from April 26 to 28.

Evangelist preacher Matius Arif Mirdjaja, a former drug addict and prisoner in Bali's Kerobokan jail who was baptised by Chan, said Indonesia would be remembered as a nation that killed a pastor and an artist, not drug kingpins.

"History will write that we are a nation that killed all the repented, a nation that loses empathy and compassion for people who have transformed their lives and helped others," he said.

Their Australian lawyer Julian McMahon returned from Nusakambangan, where the men will be executed, with three self-portraits painted by Sukumaran. One painting, still wet and dated April 25, carried the haunting inscription: "The 72 hours just started." The second, dated April 24, was called "Strange Day". And the third, also dated April 25, said: "Our new friends: A bad sleep last night."


Source: The Age, Jewel Topsfield, April 26, 2015

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EU urges Singapore to reinstate halt on executions

The European Union (EU) has called on the authorities in Singapore to reinstate its halt on capital punishment, following the execution of a convicted murderer here last week.

Reiterating its opposition to the use of capital punishment, the EU said in a statement yesterday it has consistently called for universal abolition of the penalty, which it describes as "cruel and inhumane".

"The European Union calls on the Singaporean authorities to stop all pending executions and to reinstate its earlier moratorium on capital punishment as a 1st step towards definitive abolition of the death penalty," it added.

The statement came after Muhammad Kadar, 39, was executed on April 17 at Changi Prison Complex after he was convicted of stabbing a 69-year-old neighbour to death in her flat while robbing her. He is the 1st murderer to be sentenced to death after the law was changed to give judges discretion to mete out life imprisonment and caning instead for certain murder offences.

A statement released by the Singapore Police Force (SPF) last week said Muhammad had been accorded full due process under the law and was represented by a lawyer throughout the legal process.

"The Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal against conviction on July 5, 2011," said the SPF. "On Sept 29 last year, after hearing further arguments, the Court of Appeal dismissed his application for re-sentencing under the new death penalty regime and affirmed the sentence of death." The SPF added that Muhammad's petition for clemency was also rejected.

Source: Today, April 25, 2015


Statement on the execution of Muhammad bin Kadar

Muhammad bin Kadar, 39, was executed on 17 April 2015. He received the death sentence for killing a 69-year-old woman during a robbery in the victim's flat that occurred in May 2005. Muhammad had a low IQ of 76 and was under the influence of Dormicum when he entered the flat of Mdm Tham Weng Kuen and repeatedly attacked her with a knife and later a chopper from her kitchen. The victim later died of blood loss from the profuse wounds she suffered.

In 2009, Muhammad was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by the High Court. His appeal for diminished responsibility rejected by the Appellate Court in 2011. After amendments to the mandatory death penalty regime were introduced in late 2012, Muhammad applied for a re-sentence. The apex court determined that he had caused death with the "intention to kill" and upheld the death penalty. The final appeal for presidential clemency was rejected a week before Muhammad's execution.

We at the Singapore Anti-Death Penalty Campaign (SADPC) believe that Muhammad's death sentence should have been commuted in view of his low IQ and the influence of Dormicum. The defence psychiatrist had stated that the drug likely led to a "major reduction in self-control and regulation" of Muhammad's actions and that the intention to silence the victim was likely to have formed under the disinhibitory effects of Dormicum. So while Muhammad had planned to forcefully rob Mdm Tham and consumed Dormicum to embolden himself, the fatal attack was not premeditated and very much an afterthought influenced by the drug.

The death penalty is often and instinctively put forward as an effective deterrent of crime. Yet in the circumstances, we find great difficulty in seeing how this tragedy could have been prevented by the threat of execution given Muhammad's state of mind. Muhammad was a part-time odd job labourer with a history of substance abuse who was desperate for money to feed his drug habit. With a low IQ and only primary school education, Muhammad was socio-economically vulnerable to substance abuse and attendant problems. Imposing the death penalty in cases like these has the opposite effect of justice by disproportionately punishing the marginalised.

Media reports on the case have highlighted and even headlined the brutal manner of the murder. The SADPC maintains our opposition to the death sentence even for such cases. The death penalty is an ethically questionable choice of punishment as it shares the intentionality and instrumentality of violence with every act of murder. Judicial executions are in effect the most premeditated of all murders, even if they are aimed at achieving peace and security. We reject the death penalty because justice requires the congruence of means and ends.

SADPC continues to call for the abolition of the death penalty. We urge the country to look deeper into the roots of crime and find more humane and holistic ways to rehabilitate and reintegrate people like Muhammad. We strongly believe every person deserves a chance at atonement by contributing back to society.

Source: theonlinecitizen.com, April 25, 2015

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Philippines: Not all cases of OFWs on death row are equal

The family of Mary Jane Veloso, who is among a group of prisoners
facing execution, on its way to visit her on Saturday, April 25, 2015.
As predictable as rain, and as tedious, is the usual response of Philippine newspaper columnists and editorial writers whenever Filipinos end up on death row in foreign prisons for various alleged offenses, including drug trafficking.

They will ask the government to educate overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on the perils of serving as drug couriers, or "mules." This suggests that those OFWs who have been convicted of drug trafficking knew what they were doing, but thought they could get away with it, or were ignorant of the host country's laws.

In some cases they squarely lay the blame on the OFW, or imply that he or she deserves execution for breaking the laws of the country whose courts have sentenced him or her to death. Seldom do they take the time and effort to look at the specifics of each case.

True, one or all of these assumptions are valid in many cases of OFW convictions for drug trafficking. The excuse that they did not know the contents of the package containing the drug often strains credulity for its disingenuousness.

In other instances, the alleged drug mules were not familiar with the laws of the country into which they were bringing the package, or else thought that they would not be detected, perhaps because they think the same impunity rampant in the Philippines reigns as well in other countries.

The prospect of easy money is usually the reason some OFWs agree to bring prohibited drugs into another country. In not a few cases, it's not the first time that the OFW has served as a drug courier.

The case of Mary Jane Veloso is entirely different, but has elicited practically the same response from the Philippine media, which have implied that she knew what she was doing, but did not know that the death penalty has been restored in the new administration of Indonesian President Jokowi Widodo - and that, in any case, appeals for either a stay or a stop to her execution gloss over these essential points, as well as the fundamental one of the need for OFWs to respect the laws of the countries to which they have been deployed or through which they're transiting.

Veloso was in the first place not entrusted with any package, but was given a "gift" - by a quasi-relative who was also her recruiter - of a suitcase the lining of which, it turned out, concealed 2.6 kilograms of heroin. While it seems only common sense to those of us who are more skeptical of human motives and acts never to carry for anyone, whether for love or money, any package, bag or suitcase the contents of which we don't know, Veloso apparently trusted this individual, whom her family has identified as a certain Christine, or "Tintin," and who was known to her as the wife of the son of her godfather.

In feudal Philippines, ties of kinship bind not only blood relatives but also those individuals with whom one has developed such relationships as Veloso had with "Tintin." Not only are godfathers (ninong) and godmothers (ninang) treated as members of the family, so are their children (Filipinos even have a name for them: kinakapatid) - and their children's spouses. To Veloso's implicit trust of "Tintin" was apparently added her sense that she owed her a debt of gratitude (utang na loob). Her lawyers from the National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL) have pointed out how excessive the death sentence on Veloso is, given these issues.

If there are reasons to doubt that Veloso knew she was carrying illegal drugs into Indonesia, there are equally sound reasons to doubt that her trial was fair. The NUPL argues that "she was denied her basic right to due process; the death penalty is too harsh given her disputable participation in the crime; and humanitarian considerations militate against the taking of her life through execution by firing squad." (Yes, they still do that in Indonesia.)

Veloso, continued NUPL Secretary-General Edre Olalia, was not represented by a competent lawyer during her 2010 trial, and the interpreter she was provided with was a student whose own competence in either Bahasa Indonesia or English could be questioned. (Veloso did not then know Bahasa Indonesia; neither was she fluent in English.)

Olalia also questioned the court's failure to apply in Veloso's case the Indonesian Law on the Eradication of the Criminal Act on Trafficking in Persons, which, he said, contains a "non-punishment" clause for criminal acts committed by trafficked persons. (Philippine anti-human trafficking groups point out that Veloso, by being exploited as an unwitting drug courier, was a victim of human trafficking.) Olalia has also asked the Indonesian government for leniency on humanitarian grounds. Veloso, who is from a poor family, is a young single mother with 2 small children.

Incidental to the Veloso case, but crucial to Veloso's fate nevertheless, is the political situation in Indonesia, where President Widodo is apparently using his mindless advocacy of the death penalty for drug-related crimes as a platform from which to enhance his domestic political support. It helps explain why he's made much of his supposedly uncompromising stand on drug trafficking by refusing to heed appeals for a stay of execution not only from the Philippine government and various local groups, but also from such international bodies as the United Nations and Amnesty International.

But Filipinos have to ask why the Philippine embassy in Jakarta did not provide Veloso a competent lawyer and interpreter to begin with, rather than allowing her to be represented by a lawyer designated by the Indonesian government and to have a less than able interpreter. Apparently, as in many other instances involving Filipinos in trouble with the laws of other countries, Philippine embassies are hardly of any help, even if only by seeing to it that the rights of Filipinos accused of crimes in foreign places are protected.

One would have expected the Philippine foreign service - after years and years of seeing OFWs hanged, decapitated or killed through some other method across the planet - to have developed by now those mechanisms of support that can make the difference between life and death. Too little and too late are the (self-) publicized efforts of the Aquino administration to save Veloso 5 long years after she was convicted.

The question of State accountability aside, the flaws in Veloso's trial alone should be enough grounds for a mistrial. Together with the other unique circumstances surrounding her case, that glaring possibility suggests that hers deserves closer scrutiny on the part of both the public, and, what's even more crucial, the Philippine media. Surely among the "lessons from a drug case" rather than the usual cliches is the need for the media to look closely at every case of OFWs landing on death row, rather than lumping them all together as if they were the same. They're not.

Source: bulatlat.com, April 25, 2015

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There is no evidence that the death penalty acts as a deterrent

Indonesian president Joko Widodo
Indonesian president Joko Widodo
Joko Widodo argues that Indonesia needs to execute drug offenders like Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran to deter others, but he can produce no evidence to support this claim.

Australia has executed no-one for half a century. Following the abolition of the death penalty by various states, the federal government abolished capital punishment in 1973.

Nevertheless, Australian citizens - like all of those from abolitionist jurisdictions - face the death penalty when they commit serious crimes in countries that retain it. Bali 9 pair Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are facing execution in Indonesia following their convictions on drug trafficking charges almost 10 years ago. On Saturday, they and 7 others were given official notice that they will be killed by firing squad on the prison island of Nusakambangan. Under Indonesian law, the minimum period between receiving notice and execution is 72 hours.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, has insisted all along that he will reject clemency petitions for drug traffickers on death row. In January, 6 were executed - 5 of them foreigners - straining Indonesia's diplomatic relations with Brazil and the Netherlands. These countries abolished the death penalty in the 19th century.

Jokowi claims that Indonesia is in the grip of a national drug "emergency". He argues that it needs to execute drug offenders to deter others and thereby reduce the rate of deaths following illicit or illegal drug use. However, he, like others who support the death penalty, can produce no evidence to support this claim.

Because it would be morally repugnant to conduct random experiments in the use of capital punishment, it remains difficult - if not impossible - to find empirical data on the deterrent effects of the threat of capital punishment that would persuade a committed proponent of the death penalty to change their mind.

As far as some crimes punishable by death in several countries are concerned - such as importing or trading in illegal drugs, economic crimes, or politically motivated violence - there is no reliable evidence of the deterrent effects of executions. What evidence there is - which is mostly from the US - should lead any dispassionate analyst to conclude that it is not prudent to accept the hypothesis that capital punishment deters murder to a marginally greater extent than does the supposedly lesser punishment of life imprisonment.

One rather unsophisticated way of considering deterrence is to analyse homicide rates before and after the death penalty is abolished. This at least can show whether countries that abolish capital punishment inevitably experience more murders, as those who support the deterrent argument claim.

In Australia, where the last executions occurred in the mid-1960s, the reported murder rate has, a few fluctuations aside, fallen.

Prior to the abolition of the death penalty in Canada in 1976, the reported homicide rate had been rising. But in 2003, 27 years after abolition, the rate was 43% lower than it was in 1975, the year before abolition.

Likewise, the homicide rate in countries of Central and Eastern Europe declined by about 60% after abolition in the 1990s. In most countries, abolition, and a strengthening of the rule of law, results in a decline in the homicide rate.

While recent studies on deterrence in the US are inconclusive as a whole, and many suffer from methodological problems, they do not produce credible evidence on deterrence as a behavioural mechanism.

Therefore, the issue is not whether the death penalty deters some - if only a few - people where the threat of a lesser punishment would not. Instead, it is whether, when all the circumstances surrounding its use are taken into account, the death penalty is associated with a marginally lower rate of the death penalty-eligible crimes than the next most severe penalty, life imprisonment. There is no evidence that it is.

As far as Indonesia's claims for a deterrent effect are concerned, Oxford scholar Claudia Stoicescu has shown that this claim is based on inaccurate statistics on the number of drug users that need rehabilitation and the number of young people that die each day as a result of drug use.

Quite simply, rigorous analysis of the available data does not support the claims made for the need to retain the death penalty to reduce social harms.

About 1/2 of the people on death row in Indonesia have been convicted of drug-related offences. Many are foreigners.

Secrecy surrounds the administration of the death penalty in Indonesia. Prisoners learn about the exact time of their execution only 72 hours in advance.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have not been able to persuade Jokowi that his belief in deterrence is misguided. However, they could perhaps remind him that his apparent approach to clemency is in breach of Indonesia's binding obligations under Article 6(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Indonesia became a party to this in 2006.

Clemency should always be considered on a case-by-case basis for each and every prisoner. Jokowi's statement that he will reject clemency for all prisoners sentenced to death for drug offences is in clear contradiction of that principle.

Source: The Conversation, April 25, 2015. Carolyn Hoyle, Director of the Centre for Criminology at University of Oxford; Roger Hood, Emeritus Professor of Criminology at University of Oxford.

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Rise in Indonesia executions bucks global trend: Amnesty

Indonesian president Joko Widodo
Indonesia has sharply increased executions, bucking a global trend of fewer death sentences being carried out, Amnesty International experts said, as Jakarta prepares to execute nine foreign drug convicts.

Amnesty said that the number of executions carried out globally went down to 607 in 2014 -- a reduction of 22 % from 2013 -- even though capital sentences handed out increased 28 % to 2,466.

In Indonesia, no convicts were executed in 2014 but 6 have been so far this year and the government has promised to bring that total to 20 -- an unprecedented level for the country in recent years.

This number of executions would bring Indonesia to the 2014 level of countries like Yemen (22), Sudan (23) or the United States (35), although far below the hundreds killed every year in China and Iran.

An Amnesty report showed there were 5 executions in Indonesia in 2013, then none 2009-2012 and 10 in 2008.

Indonesia is not alone in justifying the death sentences as part of a crackdown on crime.

The rapid rise in death sentences in 2014 was mainly caused by Egypt and Nigeria where hundreds of Islamists have been convicted in terror cases.

Below are comments made by 2 Amnesty experts in interviews with AFP:

- Audrey Gaughran, Director of Global Issues, Amnesty International

"We've seen a reduction thankfully in executions globally... The long-term trend in the world is definitely towards abolition even though each year we see some negative developments that cause us concern," she said.

"We have very significant concerns in Egypt because of the mass death sentences which have followed extremely unfair trials and in Nigeria we're concerned about the way the military courts have imposed death sentences."

"There is a trend of countries using the death penalty and saying it's to combat terrorism, it's to combat violent crime. There is no evidence that the death penalty is any more of a deterrent to violent crime or terrorism than other forms of punishment like imprisonment."

"It becomes an excuse, a justification for imposing death sentences."

"The death penalty isn't the solution to these problems, the death penalty isn't justice."

- Papang Hidayat, Indonesia researcher, Amnesty International

"I think the Indonesian government will continue with the 2nd wave of executions because they don't want to lose face in front of the population. A majority of Indonesians are in favour of the death penalty and execution, particularly in drug cases."

"I think the international outcry is playing an important role and will prevent them carrying out all 20 executions this year.... I think the reaction of the international community made President Widodo a bit surprised. They thought the death penalty was a small issue that could not hamper the bilateral relationship with any country."

"To execute more than 10 in a year would not be usual."

"If Indonesia executes 10 people, it means that the number would be 16. It puts Indonesia between the top 10 and top 15 countries in terms of executions. It's very uncommon in Indonesia."

"They want to be seen as strong on law enforcement but more educated people are now joining the anti death-penalty movement, which is getting larger."

"There was a very good manoeuvre made by the Australians when they sent a famous Islamic cleric to Jakarta to meet his Indonesian counterparts and he shared his view that according to Islamic teaching the death penalty should be abolished. It received a positive reception -- unlike if Amnesty condemned through a press release or report. They would consider us a Western organisation trying to interfere with Indonesian values."

Source: Amnesty International, April 25, 2015

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Death Penalty for Drug Crimes Violates International Law

President Joko Widodo of Indonesia should urgently commute the death sentences of 10 people who face imminent execution for drug trafficking, Human Rights Watch said today. Following the exhaustion of legal appeals on April 24, 2015, Indonesian authorities advised foreign diplomats and the prisoners' family members to convene on the island of Nusa Kambangan, where the executions are slated to occur.

"President Widodo has an important opportunity to signal Indonesia's rejection of the death penalty by sparing the lives of the 10 people facing looming execution," said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director. "Widodo can demonstrate true leadership by ending capital punishment as unacceptable state brutality."

The 10 prisoners include one Indonesian and nine foreign nationals, from Brazil, Australia, France, Ghana, Nigeria, and the Philippines. The pending executions have provoked a diplomatic firestorm from foreign governments whose nationals are scheduled to face the firing squad. The Brazilian government has expressed concern that its citizen Rodrigo Gularte faces execution despite evidence that he has bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia. In 2000 the United Nations Commission on Human Rights expressed its opposition to imposing the death penalty "on a person suffering from any form of mental disorder." The UN special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, stated in December 2014 that imposing the death penalty on people with mental disabilities violated the prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment.

6 other convicted drug traffickers were recently executed in Indonesia. Widodo has sought to justify the death penalty spree on the basis that drug traffickers on death row had "destroyed the future of the nation." In December he told students that the death penalty for convicted drug traffickers was an "important shock therapy" for anyone who violates Indonesia's drug laws.

According to the Attorney General's Office statistics, 136 people were on death row in Indonesia at the end of 2014, of whom 64 have been convicted of drug trafficking, 2 for terrorism, and the rest for murder and robbery. Indonesia ended a 4-year unofficial moratorium on the use of the death penalty on March 15, 2013, when it executed by firing squad Adami Wilson, a 48-year-old Malawian national. An Indonesian court had convicted Wilson in 2004 of smuggling 1 kilogram of heroin into Indonesia.

Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because of its inherent cruelty. Indonesia's use of the death penalty is inconsistent with international human rights law, statements of UN human rights experts, and various UN bodies. Human rights law upholds every human being's "inherent right to life" and limits the death penalty to "the most serious crimes," typically crimes resulting in death or serious bodily harm. Indonesia should join with the many countries already committed to the UN General Assembly's December 18, 2007 resolution calling for a moratorium on executions and a move by UN member countries toward abolition of the death penalty.

In a March 2010 report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime called for an end to the death penalty and specifically urged member countries to prohibit use of the death penalty for drug-related offenses while urging countries to take an overall "human rights-based approach to drug and crime control." The UN Human Rights Committee and the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions have concluded that the death penalty for drug offenses fails to meet the condition of "most serious crime."

"President Widodo should recognize that the death penalty is not a crime deterrent but an unjustifiable and barbaric punishment," Kine said. "Widodo should promote Indonesia as a rights-respecting democracy by joining the countries that have abolished capital punishment."

Source: Human Rights Watch, April 25, 2015

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Planned executions "a shameful stain" for President Widodo

Indonesian president Joko Widodo
Indonesian president Joko Widodo
The planned execution of 10 inmates convicted of drug-related offenses is a shameful stain on President Joko Widodo's policymaking, FIDH and its member organization KontraS said today. The 2 organizations reiterate their appeal to President Widodo for a halt to all executions and the commutation of all death sentences.

"President Widodo's green light for more executions despite massive international calls for clemency is a shameful stain on his policymaking," said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. "He must immediately end this barbaric practice and ensure that Indonesia complies with its international human rights obligations."

10 individuals are scheduled to be executed by firing squad within days in Nusakambangan prison in Central Java. They are: Rodrigo Gularte (Brazil), Serge Atlaoui (France), Okwudili Oyatanze (Nigeria), Raheem Agbaje Salami (Nigeria), Sylvester Obiekwe (Nigeria), Martin Anderson (Ghana), Mary Jane Veloso (Philippines), Andrew Chan (Australia), Myuran Sukumaran (Australia), and Zainal Abidin (Indonesia). On 23 April, the Attorney General Office instructed authorities to prepare for the executions, after many of the 10 drug convicts repeatedly failed to secure a judicial review of their cases.

"President Widodo's tough stance on capital punishment for drug convicts is a disgraceful ploy to shore up his sinking approval ratings," said KontraS Executive Director Haris Azhar. "It's time for President Widodo to heed the international communities' repeated calls for an end to executions."

Instead of implementing a moratorium on executions, President Widodo has repeatedly ruled out an amnesty for drug traffickers facing execution. In early December 2014, President Widodo refused to grant clemency to 6 inmates, including 2 women, who had been found guilty of drug trafficking. On 18 January 2015, the 6 were executed by firing squad in Nusakambangan prison.

Ironically, and in a move that exposes the Indonesian government to hypocritical double standards on capital punishment, President Widodo's administration protested the execution of 2 Indonesian women in Saudi Arabia on 14 and 16 April 2015.

On 2 April 2015, it was reported that the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) had downgraded Indonesia to 'E', on a scale of 'A' to 'E', for its failure to respond to the HRC's call in August 2013 to stop executing prisoners for drug-related crimes. The HRC monitors implementation by states parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The 'E' rating indicates that Indonesia took measures that went against the HRC's recommendations related to the death penalty. The HRC has repeatedly stressed that capital punishment for drug-related offenses is a clear violation of Article 6 of the ICCPR on the right to life.

FIDH and KontraS, both members of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty (WCADP), reiterate their strong opposition to the death penalty for all crimes and in all circumstances. Our organizations insist that there is no conclusive evidence of the deterrent value of the death penalty on drug-related offenses.

Source: FIDH, April 25, 2015

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Until recently Belarus was the only country in Europe and Central Asia to execute prisoners

Until recently Belarus was the only country in Europe and Central Asia to execute prisoners However, after reintroducing capital punishment in territory they hold, pro-Russian Ukrainian rebels have sentenced at least 1 man to death since September 2014.

Belarus executed 3 people by shooting in 2014 after a 24-month break in state killings, Amnesty International told EurActiv. It is the only European and Central Asian country which uses the death penalty.

The executions were secret with lawyers and family only being told after the prisoners were dead, Amnesty, which on 1 April published its annual Death Penalty Report, said.

Authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenka hosted the February Minsk talks to end fighting in eastern Ukraine. They were attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko, Germany's Angela Merkel and France's Francois Hollande.

Ukraine abolished the death penalty in 2000. In August last year, pro-Russian rebels in the so-called Donetsk People Republic, in eastern Ukraine, introduced a criminal code in August, reserving the death penalty for the "gravest crimes". The same session approved the setting up of military "courts" in the territories they control.

The Lugansk People's Republic has also re-introduced the death penalty. On 26 September, rules were introduced that homosexual rape could be punished by death.

In October, a YouTube video surfaced which appeared to show a "people's court" of about 300, judging 2 alleged rapists of women. After gunpoint confessions and a vote by the kangaroo court, one was sent to the frontline.

The other was sentenced to death by firing squad, with only his mother speaking out for mercy. Amnesty International has not been able to confirm if he was shot, but the sentence did not appear to be carried out immediately.

While there have been numerous reports of summary executions in Ukraine, they were not committed within the pseudo-legal framework of the criminal code.

European Union

The European Union does not recognise either the Lugansk or Donetsk republics, branding November elections held in the territories "illegal and illegitimate". It has called for the rule of law and order to be reestablished, so that human rights violations can be prevented and investigated.

"Capital punishment cannot be justified under any circumstances. The death penalty is a cruel and inhuman punishment, which fails to act as a deterrent and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity," an EU official said.

Every EU member state has abolished the death penalty in law or practice. The last country to do so was Latvia, which banned capital punishment in wartime in 2012. The absolute ban on the death penalty is enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

Lukashenka, described as leading "Europe's last dictatorship", was able to play the international statesman at Minsk, shoring up his position at home, campaigners told EurActiv.

But there was little choice in the location for the summit if EU leaders wanted to stop the fighting. The EU can leverage hardly any influence over the police state, which is heavily backed by Russia.

A lack of interest from the west, hastened by the Ukraine crisis, have also ruled out any Maiden-style revolution in Belarus, according to analysis by Belarus Digest, published in The Guardian. Lukashenka has been in power since 1994.

"Legal" executions

The EU has urged Belarus to join a global moratorium on the death penalty as a step towards its universal abolition. Despite repeated EU condemnations, Belarus continues to execute by shooting, and to sentence prisoners to death.

In April 2014 Belarus secretly executed Pavel Selyun, sentenced in June 2013 for a 2012 double murder. The UN Human Rights Committee had requested a stay in execution, which was ignored.

Such requests are legally binding on state parties to the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Belarus agreed to in 1992.

In May, the Mogilev Regional Court in Belarus confirmed that Rygor Yuzepchuk had been executed. He was sentenced to death in 2013 for a 2012 murder. The authorities have not made public the date of his execution or the location of his grave.

Aliaksandr Haryunou was executed in October. He was sentenced to death in 2013 for a murder committed in 2012. Haryunou appealed to the UN Human Rights Committee in April, arguing that his trial had been unfair.

The Committee asked the Belarusian authorities to stay his execution until it had considered the case. They ignored the legally binding request. Neither his relatives nor lawyer were given the chance to have a final meeting with Haryunou.

In March 2015, Siarhei Ivanou was sentenced to death by the Homel Regional Court of the Republic of Belarus. The EU's foreign policy bureau called for his right to appeal to be guaranteed, while expressing sympathy to the family of the victim.

Counter-terrorism

Worldwide, there was a sharp spike in the handing down of death sentences in 2014, up more than 500 on the previous year to at least 2,466. This was due to more governments in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan using sentences handed down on trumped up terror charges to quell dissent, Amnesty International said.

Writing exclusively in EurActiv today, it warned that "mainstreaming counter-terrorism" into EU foreign policy in the guise of "international cooperation" could undermine its principled stance on the death penalty.

Targeted and upgraded security dialogues with countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, were dialogues with countries that executed as a matter of course, warned Iverna McGowan, acting director of Amnesty International's European Institutions Office.

"In the wake of the sharp spike in death sentences, and closer security cooperation with many state perpetrators, the burning question the EU needs to answer is whether and how it is making sure partners stop using the death penalty," she said.

Russia and the Council of Europe

Ironically, Belarus' sponsor Russia has had a moratorium on the death penalty since 2009. All 47 member-states of the Council of Europe, including Russia, have stopped using capital punishment due to commitments under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Becoming a member of the international organisation for cooperation, human rights and rule of law, would mean Belarus would have to give up the death penalty. It would also be open to legal challenges over its dismal human rights record.

Council spokesman Andrew Cutting stated, "The Council of Europe is firmly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances. The Committee of Ministers has repeatedly called upon non-member countries including Belarus, the United States and Japan to cease using the death penalty and move towards abolition."

Japan (3 executions last year) and the United States have observer status at the Council. Executions in the US dropped from 39 in 2013 to 35 in 2014, Amnesty International said.

China again carried out more executions than the rest of the world put together. Amnesty International believes thousands are executed and sentenced to death there every year, but with numbers kept a state secret the true figure is impossible to determine.

Without China, there were 602 executions in 22 countries in 2014. The world's top 5 executioners apart from China in 2014 were Iran (289 officially announced and at least 454 more that were not acknowledged by the authorities), Saudi Arabia (at least 90), Iraq (at least 61) and the USA.

Source: eurobelarus.info, April 25, 2015

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China: Hearing set for murder conviction 20 years after execution

Nie Shubin
Nie Shubin
A court in the eastern province of Shandong will review a controversial 1994 rape and murder case that saw a man executed, only for another to later confess to the crime.

Nie Shubin was 21 in 1995 when found guilty of the rape and murder of a woman in Hebei's capital, Shijiazhuang, and executed. In 2005, another man named Wang Shujin confessed to the attack.

Wang, 48, was apprehended by police in 2005 for three unconnected rape and murder cases, and confessed to a rape and murder with similar facts to Nie's case.

Hebei Higher People's Court approved the death penalty for Nie in 1995, rejected Wang's request for a retrial in 2013 and still holds that Nie was guilty. Last December the Supreme People's Court ordered the case be moved out of the province and reviewed in Shandong.

Five judges from Shandong higher court have reviewed Nie's case and the attorneys acting for Nie have seen the case files. In March, the attorneys claimed to have found several "evident errors" while duplicating Nie's case files, most of which involve legal procedure.

Nie's family, their legal team and officials representing those involved in the original trial will attend the hearing, scheduled for April 28, said a statement from the court. Other than the 2 parties, 15 people, including lawyers, lawmakers, political advisors and representatives of the public, will attend the hearing as independent witnesses and ask questions to both parties.

To protect the identity of the victim, the hearing will not be open to the public but proceedings will be documented via the court's official microblog account.

Normally in China, for the review of a murder conviction, the court goes through case files rather than holding an actual trial.

Prof. Bian Jianlin of the China University of Political Science and Law told Xinhua that this kind of hearing is very rare and may be be an attempt to promote judicial transparency and raise the credibility of the judicial system.

"We want to conduct a fair and just review of the case with adequate transparency," Zhu Yunshan, presiding judge of the the review team, said. "A hearing of this kind is our best option to hear both sides of the story and inform the public without compromising the victim's privacy."

Nie's case drew public attention following the acquittal of an executed convict in another rape-murder case last December.

A teenager named Huugjilt from Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region was executed for the rape and murder of a woman in June 1996. A few years later a self-confessed serial rapist and killer, Zhao Zhihong, admitted to the murder when arrested in 2005.

Source: ECNS, April 25, 2015

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Indonesia: French death row inmate Serge Atlaoui gets last-minute, two-week reprieve pending case review

Serge Atlaoui conferring with his Indonesian lawyer
Cilacap (Indonesia) (AFP) - Indonesia said Saturday it had officially notified eight foreign drug convicts that they will be executed, prompting an appeal from United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon to spare the prisoners and suspend the death penalty.

A Frenchman also on death row for drug-related crimes was granted a temporary reprieve after Paris stepped up pressure on Jakarta.

The eight -- from Australia, Brazil, Nigeria and the Philippines -- have been transported to the high-security prison island of Nusakambangan where they will face the firing squad along with an Indonesian prisoner.

"Today, just now, we just finished notifying every convict, nine people except for Serge," a spokesman for the attorney-general's office, Tony Spontana, told AFP, adding it would be at least three days until the sentences are carried out.

"We have also asked for their last wish," he added.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urged Indonesia to "refrain from carrying out the execution", adding that drug-related offences are not generally considered to fall under "most serious crimes", which is the only time the death penalty should be used under international law.

"The Secretary General urges President Joko Widodo to urgently consider declaring a moratorium on capital punishment in Indonesia, with a view toward abolition," a spokesman for Ban said.

Indonesian officials said earlier that Frenchman Serge Atlaoui, who was expected to be among the group being put to death, will not be included in the forthcoming batch as he still has an outstanding legal appeal.

Spontana did not give a date for the executions but a lawyer for Filipina Mary Jane Veloso said she had been informed she would be put to death on Tuesday.

The news that the execution procedure is under way, after weeks of delays, came after Indonesian officials met diplomats Saturday in a town near Nusakambangan. The consular officials then travelled to the island to visit inmates.

The foreign drug convicts have all lost appeals for clemency from Widodo, who argues that Indonesia is fighting a drugs emergency.

The Australian government said it had been informed that the execution of its citizens, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, was "imminent".

"Nothing can be gained and much will be lost if these two young Australians are executed," said Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

"I again respectfully call on the president of Indonesia to reconsider his refusal to grant clemency. It is not too late for a change of heart."

Minnie Lopez, a lawyer for Veloso, told AFP: "We were informed by Mary Jane herself that she received the notice that the sentence will be implemented on April 28."

The news of Atlaoui's temporary reprieve came after France dramatically ramped up pressure on Jakarta to change course, and President Francois Hollande warned Saturday of "consequences with France and Europe" if he was put to death.

Widodo has previously ignored the increasingly clamorous appeals on the convicts' behalf from their governments, social media and from others such as the band Napalm Death -- the president is a huge heavy metal fan.

The Australian government has mounted a campaign to save its citizens on death row, ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" heroin-smuggling gang, stressing that they are reformed characters after a decade behind bars.

Sukumaran has become an accomplished artist during his time in jail. After visiting him on Nusakambangan, one of his lawyers, Julian McMahon, returned carrying three of the convict's self-portraits with one dated April 25 and signed "72 hours just started", the Australian Associated Press reported.

Seventy-two hours is the minimum amount of time that death row convicts must be given before they are executed in Indonesia.

Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso
Earlier, Sukumaran's sister Brintha issued an emotional plea for his life to be spared, urging Widodo in a YouTube video to "change punishment for humanity".

Veloso, whose family visited her on the prison island Saturday, sent out 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, save me from the death penalty. I have two very young sons who need their mother," it said. "I swear before God, I am innocent. I am a mere victim of evil people, even if many don't believe me."

The 30-year-old, who was caught in 2009 with heroin sewn into the lining of her suitcase at Yogyakarta airport, claims she was a victim of human trafficking and that she is not a drug smuggler.

The family of Brazilian convict Rodrigo Gularte have argued he should not be put to death as he is a paranoid schizophrenic, and his lawyer Ricky Gunawan said Saturday that the "execution of a person with mental problems is beyond logic".

Three of the African traffickers are confirmed as being from Nigeria. However it is not clear whether the fourth holds Ghanaian or Nigerian nationality.

Indonesia has some of the toughest anti-drugs laws in the world. In January, Jakarta executed six drug convicts, including five foreigners, sparking international outrage.

Source: Agence France-Presse, April 25, 2015

Recommended article:
- Indonesia’s Death Row Convicts Facing Mass Execution, The New York Times, April 25, 2015. Here are the 10 people facing execution by firing squad in Indonesia for drug-related offenses...

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