Indonesia executes 4 inmates, 10 get reprieve

Relatives of Zulfiqar Ali celebrating in Lahore, Pakistan, yesterday after Indonesia halted the Pakistani national's execution. Ali was sentenced to death in 2005 for heroin possession.
Relatives of Zulfiqar Ali celebrating in Lahore, Pakistan, yesterday after Indonesia halted the Pakistani national's execution. Ali was sentenced to death in 2005 for heroin possession.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Death sentences carried out despite strong international protests; lawyers 'kept in dark'

CILACAP • Indonesia executed four drug convicts yesterday but 10 others due to face the firing squad were given an apparent reprieve in a confusing process one lawyer condemned as a "complete mess".

The executions on a remote prison island went ahead despite strong protests from international rights groups, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and the European Union, which had urged Indonesia not to proceed.

Four inmates - three Nigerians and one Indonesian - were put to death just after midnight.

Attorney-General M. Prasetyo said the stay of execution for the 10 convicts was a last-minute decision after considering various judicial and non-judicial issues.

"It was decided to carry on with executions of four drug convicts, while executions for the other 10 will be decided later and carried out at an appropriate time," Mr Prasetyo said.

The 10 death-row convicts will be moved back to their former prisons until a final decision is made, he said.

He rejected claims that the country had halted the executions as a result of international pressure, adding that even though officials had heard many opinions, all parties should respect Indonesian law.

Meanwhile, one of the Nigerian prisoners was cremated hours later, while the bodies of the other three were being prepared for burial.

Questions swirled about the handling of the process, with the 10 prisoners who escaped being killed - including from India, Pakistan and Zimbabwe - spared at the last minute without explanation.

The prison island of Nusakambangan where the convicts were expected to be executed in outdoor clearings was hit by a major storm as the other death sentences were carried out.

Mr Ricky Gunawan - whose client, Nigerian national Humphrey Jefferson Ejike Eleweke, was among those tied to a post and shot in the jungle clearing - said lawyers awaiting the grim news were kept in the dark as to why the executions did not proceed as planned.

"I would say the execution this morning was a complete mess," he told AFP from Cilacap, near Nusakambangan. "No clear information was provided to us about the time of execution, why only four (were executed) and what happens to the 10 others."

President Joko Widodo has defended the move to dramatically ramp up the use of capital punishment, saying that Indonesia is fighting a war on drugs and that traffickers must be heavily punished.

Yesterday's executions were the third round under Mr Joko since he took office in 2014. The last round was in April 2015, when authorities put to death eight drug convicts, including two Australians.

The executed Indonesian was named as Freddy Budiman, while the three Nigerians were Seck Osmane, Eleweke and Michael Titus Igweh.

Two people whose cases had raised high-profile international concern among rights groups were not executed.

One is Pakistani Zulfiqar Ali, whom rights groups say was beaten into confessing to heroin possession, leading to his 2005 death sentence.

The other is Indonesian woman Merri Utami, who was caught with heroin in her bag as she came through Jakarta airport. She claims that she was duped into becoming a drug mule.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2016, with the headline 'Indonesia executes 4 inmates, 10 get reprieve'. Print Edition | Subscribe