Jakarta rejects death row convict's appeal

French drug convict Serge Atlaoui was nabbed in 2005 in a secret drug factory outside Jakarta.
French drug convict Serge Atlaoui was nabbed in 2005 in a secret drug factory outside Jakarta.

JAKARTA - A Jakarta court yesterday rejected an appeal by a French drug convict on death row, raising the prospect that another foreigner could soon face the firing squad in Indonesia.

Serge Atlaoui, 51, was due to be put to death with seven other foreign drug offenders two months ago, but won a temporary reprieve after Paris stepped up pressure, with authorities agreeing to let an outstanding appeal run its course.

The execution in April of two Australians, a Brazilian and four Nigerians sparked global anger. But President Joko Widodo insists convicted traffickers must be harshly punished, saying Indonesia is facing a crisis due to rising drug use.

Yesterday, the State Administrative Court in Jakarta dismissed Atlaoui's latest appeal, in which his lawyers had argued the President rejected the convict's plea for clemency without proper consideration.

The court upheld an earlier decision that it did not have the jurisdiction to hear the challenge to the clemency plea, which is typically a death row convict's final chance to avoid the firing squad.

"We reject the challenge by the challenger," presiding judge Ujang Abdullah told the court. "We uphold the decision made by the head of the administrative court on April 9."

The administrative court had already decided that it did not have the jurisdiction to hear Atlaoui's appeal because granting clemency is the prerogative of the President, but his lawyers challenged that decision.

It was not immediately clear when the Frenchman might face the firing squad, with authorities having been tight-lipped on the subject since the last executions.

The legal team of the welder, who was arrested in 2005 in a secret drug factory outside Jakarta, indicated previously they may explore other legal avenues if the latest appeal was rejected, which could potentially slow down the process.

The failure of his latest legal bid came after Indonesia's Supreme Court in April rejected another appeal - a request by Atlaoui's legal team for a judicial review of his death sentence.

Several months ago, Mr Joko rejected pleas for clemency from Atlaoui and other foreigners, many of which had been pending for years.

Authorities accuse Atlaoui of being a "chemist" at the drugs lab where he was arrested.

But the Frenchman has maintained his innocence, claiming that he was installing machinery in what he thought was an acrylics plant.

He was initially sentenced to life in prison but the Supreme Court increased the sentence to death on appeal.

France has warned Jakarta of unspecified consequences if he is put to death. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said yesterday France firmly opposed the death penalty and was "totally mobilised" behind Atlaoui.

The executions of Australian drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran caused tensions with Australia, which temporarily recalled its ambassador from Jakarta.

Indonesia, which has some of the toughest anti-drugs laws in the world, resumed executions in 2013, after a hiatus of several years.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2015, with the headline 'Jakarta rejects death row convict's appeal'. Subscribe