Indonesia gears up for executions as families wail in grief

April 28, 2015 9:13 am
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Brintha Sukumaran (L), the sister of Australian drug convict and death row prisoner Myuran Sukumaran, breaks down after arriving at Nusakambangan port in Cilalcap on April 28, 2015/AFP
Brintha Sukumaran (L), the sister of Australian drug convict and death row prisoner Myuran Sukumaran, breaks down after arriving at Nusakambangan port in Cilalcap on April 28, 2015/AFP

, CILACAP, April 28- Indonesia made final preparations Tuesday to execute eight foreigners by firing squad, as family members wailed in grief during last visits to their loved ones and ambulances carrying white coffins arrived at the drug convicts’ prison.

Relatives of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, the Australian ringleaders of the so called “Bali Nine” heroin trafficking group, arrived at Nusakambangan prison calling for mercy for their loved ones, with Sukumaran’s sister collapsing in grief, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

Chan and Sukumaran are among nine prisoners — eight of whom are foreign and one Indonesian — facing death after authorities gave them final notice of their executions at the weekend.

Indonesia made final preparations Tuesday to execute eight foreigners by firing squad, as family members wailed in grief during last visits to their loved ones and ambulances carrying white coffins arrived at the drug convicts’ prison.

Relatives of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, the Australian ringleaders of the so-called “Bali Nine” heroin trafficking group, arrived at Nusakambangan prison calling for mercy for their loved ones, with Sukumaran’s sister collapsing in grief, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

Chan and Sukumaran are among nine prisoners — eight of whom are foreign and one Indonesian — facing death after authorities gave them final notice of their executions at the weekend.

President Joko Widodo, who believes Indonesia is facing an emergency due to rising drugs use, has signalled his determination to push on with the executions despite mounting international condemnation led by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Indonesian Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo told AFP the authorities will not announce a date before the executions.

– Screaming for mercy –

The families of Chan and Sukumaran, who have been visiting them frequently in recent days, were unable to control their emotion as they arrived at Cilacap, the town that serves as the gateway to Nusakambangan.

As they were mobbed a huge scrum of journalists, members of Sukumaran’s family screamed and cried out “mercy” as they walked in a slow procession to the port.

His sister Brintha wailed and called out her brother’s name, collapsing into the arms of family members who had to carry her.

Chan, who like Sukumaran is in his 30s, married his Indonesian girlfriend in a jailhouse ceremony with family and friends on Nusakambangan on Monday, his final wish.

Todung Mulya Lubis, a lawyer for the Australians, returned from Nusakambangan with paintings by Sukumaran, an accomplished artist, including one signed by all nine death row convicts as they counted down their final hours.

The painting — entitled “One Heart, One Feeling, One Love” — depicts a heart in bold colours.

“Jesus always love us until in the eternal life,” wrote Filipina prisoner Mary Jane Veloso, signed with a heart and with the words “keep smile” below the message.

The family of Veloso also arrived in Cilacap en route to Nusakambagan to pay a final visit, but raced past waiting reporters in a van.

As they got out of the vehicle, Filipino priest Father Harold Toledano gave them each a blessing before they headed to the island.

– ‘Dignity denied’ –

Death row convicts in Indonesia can request spiritual counsellors in their final hours, but the Australian media said Chan and Sukumaran’s requests had been rejected, with Indonesian authorities instead choosing who they could see.

“Last bit of dignity denied,” Chan’s brother Michael told Fairfax Media in a text.

Australia has mounted a vigorous campaign to save its citizens, who have been on death row for almost a decade.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Monday the executions should be halted until a corruption investigation into judges who presided over the case is complete, but Widodo dismissed the request.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Monday also asked the Indonesian leader to show mercy, but Prasetyo said there would be no delay to Veloso’s execution.

In Australia, celebrities including Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush released a video Tuesday urging Prime Minister Tony Abbott to fly to Indonesia to help save the two men.

Protesters gathered outside the Indonesian embassy in Manila, where they have been holding regular candlelight vigils for Veloso, calling on Widodo to change his mind.

“He wants to portray himself as a strong leader but by executing an innocent woman, he will portray himself as an evil man,” said Sol Pillas, secretary-general of Filipino migrant workers’ advocacy group Migrante.

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