Pressure mounts on Indonesia to call off looming executions

Indonesian policemen arrive to cross to Nusakambangan island at the Cilacap port, the only gate to Indonesia's highest security Nusakambangan prison on July 25, 2016.
Indonesian policemen arrive to cross to Nusakambangan island at the Cilacap port, the only gate to Indonesia's highest security Nusakambangan prison on July 25, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

CILACAP, INDONESIA (AFP) - Indonesia will be "on the wrong side of history" if it proceeds with a fresh round of executions this week, rights groups warned Wednesday (July 27), as authorities confirmed 14 prisoners will face the firing squad.

A group of drug convicts including foreigners have been given notice of their executions and could be put to death as early as Friday, though authorities remain tight-lipped about specific details.

Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo said on Wednesday that 14 people - including prisoners from Nigeria, Pakistan, India and Zimbabwe - had been put in isolation and would be executed this week.

"They still have the right to see their family. We have also asked what their last requests are," Prasetyo told reporters.

Family members and embassy officials visited the condemned prisoners Wednesday on Nusakambangan island, home to a high-security prison where Indonesia conducts executions.

Indonesia - which has some of the toughest anti-drugs laws in the world - executed 14 drug convicts, mostly foreigners, in two batches last year.

Activists intensified pressure on Indonesia's leader this week, urging him not to proceed with the third round of executions since he took office in October 2014.

"Indonesian President Joko Widodo, popularly known as 'Jokowi', will be putting his government on the wrong side of history if he proceeds with a fresh round of executions," Amnesty International said in a statement.

"Sadly, he could preside over the highest number of executions in the country's democratic era at a time when most of the world has turned its back on this cruel practice," added the group's Southeast Asia head Josef Benedict.

Human Rights Watch urged Joko to call off the executions and avoid a "potential diplomatic firestorm", referring to the global criticism Indonesia attracted when it put to death eight drug convicts in April 2015, including two Australians and a Brazilian.

Citizens from Indonesia, Nigeria, India, South Africa, Pakistan and Zimbabwe would be executed in this round, said lawyers from the Jakarta-based Community Legal Aid Institute, who had visited some of the inmates in prison this week.

Lawyers for some of the condemned inmates have been making last-minute bids to save their clients from the firing squad.

A letter from Indonesian convict Merri Utami to Joko asking for clemency was sent on Tuesday. Activists lobbying on behalf of Pakistani prisoner Zulfiqar Ali said they would also consider making a final appeal, despite alleging their 52-year-old client was tortured into confessing.

"We've seen how Indonesia's legal system is full of flaws. Jokowi can actually put a moratorium on executions, he has the right to do so," said Al Araf, the director of Indonesian rights group Imparsial.