Mercy pleas for death row inmates as families arrive on Indonesian prison island

CILACAP, Indonesia (AFP) - Families of foreign drug convicts set to be hauled before the firing squad in Indonesia issued desperate mercy pleas on Saturday, as relatives and diplomats descended on a prison island ahead of the looming executions.

Consular officials were arriving at a town near Nusakambangan, the high-security prison island where its executions are carried out, and where all of the death row convicts are now congregated.

The foreigners - two from Australia, one each from Brazil, France and the Philippines, and four from Africa - have all lost appeals for clemency from President Joko Widodo, who argues that Indonesia is fighting a drugs emergency.

Widodo has turned a deaf ear to increasingly clamorous appeals on the convicts' behalf from their governments, from social media and from others such as band Napalm Death - the president is a huge heavy metal fan.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Saturday renewed Canberra's appeals for Widodo "to have a change of heart" but admitted she feared the worst, while France has said the execution of its citizen would be "incomprehensible".

The family of the Filipina, Mary Jane Veloso, arrived at Cilacap, the town on Java that serves as the gateway to Nusakambangan. Her parents, her two sons aged six and 12, and her sister pushed through a scrum of waiting journalists.

"If anything bad happens to my daughter, I will hold many people accountable. They owe us my daughter's life," Veloso's 55-year-old mother Celia told a Philippine radio station.

"I hope my appeal reaches President Widodo."

'Bottom of my heart' -

Meanwhile, the sister of Australian drug trafficker Myuran Sukumaran issued an emotional plea for his life to be spared, appearing in a YouTube video clutching a photograph of her brother as a young boy wearing a school uniform.

"My brother made a mistake 10 years ago and he's paid for this mistake every single day since then," Brintha Sukumaran said.

"From the bottom of my heart, please President Widodo have mercy on my brother... change punishment for humanity."

The family members of Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, the other Australian facing imminent execution, were also en route to Cilacap. The pair, sentenced to death in 2006, are the ringleaders of the "Bali Nine" heroin-smuggling gang.

Three of the African traffickers are confirmed as being from Nigeria. However, it is not clear whether the fourth holds Ghanaian or Nigerian nationality.

Consular officials from the countries whose citizens face execution were arriving on Saturday for a briefing from Indonesian foreign ministry officials, said Charles Jose, Philippine foreign ministry spokesman.

Jakarta has said an exact date for the executions could not be decided yet, as a judicial review was still pending for the sole Indonesian in the group of 10 people who face death by firing squad.

Indonesia's Supreme Court said the ruling on that case could be made as early as Monday, paving the way for the executions to proceed.

Authorities said on Thursday that they had ordered prosecutors to start making preparations for the executions. However, convicts must be given 72-hour notice before executions are carried, and this notice is yet to be given.

Veloso's lawyers on Friday filed another court bid to halt the process, as the Australians' lawyers have been doing.

But all the lawyers concede that such attempts are long shots. Indonesia says all judicial reviews and appeals for clemency have been exhausted, and that the legal manoeuvres amount to delaying tactics.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.