Indonesia's Jokowi sympathetic over Philippine death row convict, will talk to attorney-general

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters/AFP) - Indonesia's President Joko Widodo was "sympathetic" and would consult with the attorney-general on legal issues surrounding the case of death-row convict Mary Jane Veloso, the Philippine presidential spokesman said on Monday.

The statement came after Philippine President Benigno Aquino met Mr Joko at the Asean summit in Kuala Lumpur and appealed for "humanitarian consideration" in the case.

Mr Joko was sympathetic, and was consulting with the Indonesian attorney-general on the legal issues, he said: "President Widodo promised to resume the conversation with President Aquino later today."

While the comments seemed to indicate a faint prospect of reprieve for Veloso, the Indonesian leader is seen as extremely unlikely to change course on the executions, which he has insisted for months are essential to halting a national drugs crisis.

Veloso, a 30-year-old single mother of two boys, is due to face an Indonesian firing squad on Tuesday.

She is among eight foreigners facing execution in Indonesia, which has come under international pressure to spare them.

Mr Aquino made his appeal in person on the sidelines of the annual Asean summit being held this year in Malaysia, his spokesman Herminio Coloma said.

"President Aquino talked with President Widodo earlier this morning and appealed for humanitarian consideration for Mary Jane Veloso, who was apparently duped into being an unwitting carrier of illegal drugs," Mr Coloma said in a text message.

"(Aquino) said President Widodo was sympathetic and was consulting with the Indonesian Attorney General on the legal issues."

Mr Coloma said Mr Joko promised to discuss the issue again later on Monday, when the summit that started in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur in the morning shifts to the resort island of Langkawi.

Asked if there was hope Veloso could be spared, Mr Coloma said: "So long as there is life, there is hope."

Veloso was arrested in 2009 with 2.6kg of heroin sewn into the lining of her suitcase.

She insists she went to Indonesia for a job as a maid and was duped by an international drug syndicate.

The Philippines has sought to have a second judicial review of her case, citing evidence that she was a human trafficking victim, not a drug smuggler.

But this weekend, Veloso's lawyer said she had been informed that she would be put to death on April 28.

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.

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