Wife of Frenchman on Indonesia death row clings to hope

CILACAP (AFP) - The wife of a Frenchman on death row in Indonesia says she refuses to believe she has seen him for the last time, as fears grow he will soon be executed with a group of foreigners.

Serge Atlaoui has been detained on Indonesia's notorious Nusakambangan prison island in Central Java since he was sentenced to death in 2007 on drugs charges.

The Frenchman, 51, had his appeal for clemency rejected in January by Indonesian President Joko Widodo, a vocal supporter of capital punishment for drug offenders.

Atlaoui was joined this week on the island by two Australian drug traffickers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, whose transfer from Bali signals their execution date, and that of several other foreigners, is drawing near.

The other foreigners are drug convicts from Brazil, the Philippines, Ghana and Nigeria. They all recently lost their requests for presidential clemency and are expected to be put to death at the same time soon.

Atlaoui's wife Sabine visited him in prison this week and refused to believe it will be her last, as she pins all her hope on a legal challenge for a stay of execution.

"Yes, of course we are worried," she told AFP in Cilacap, the port town where family must wait before visiting Nusakambangan.

"But we've got this judicial review that has been lodged, and we do hope that through this process, the truth can be revealed." Atlaoui, a father of four, was arrested near Jakarta in 2005 in a secret laboratory producing ecstasy.

Imprisoned in Indonesia for 10 years, he has always denied the charges saying he was installing industrial machinery in what he thought was an acrylics factory.


Atlaoui had never lodged a judicial review of his sentence until this year, when the sudden execution in January of six prisoners - including five foreigners - prompted the family to begin urgent legal action.

Sabine Atlaoui said her husband's case was different from Chan and Sukumaran, as he was applying for his first judicial review.

The Australians' application for a review last month, a second attempt by the pair, was rejected. They also lost a subsequent challenge to the president's rejection of their appeals for clemency, a decision they are now appealing in court.

But Indonesia's attorney-general has stressed that the failed attempts at presidential pardons were the last chance to avoid execution.

Unlike the families of the Australian prisoners, Sabine Atlaoui has made the journey countless times and understands their anxiety as speculation mounts about the fate of their loved ones.

"As families, we are all enduring a very traumatic situation. Here we are, with our emotions, our pain and our fear," she said.

Her husband is detained at a separate maximum security prison to the Australians, who are being held in solitary confinement elsewhere on "Indonesia's Alcatraz".

The execution of a Dutch and a Brazilian prisoner in January prompted those governments to recall their ambassadors in fury, but Widodo has vowed to maintain a tough line on drug smugglers.

Sabine Atlaoui said her husband was fully aware of the political situation, adding the executions this year had stoked fears inside the prison as inmates were led away to be shot.

But when the family was reunited this week - including three of Atlaoui's four children and two siblings who had never before visited him in prison - she said everyone put those thoughts aside momentarily.

"The atmosphere was really intense, there was laughter, feelings were so strong we could forget everything that was around us," she said.

"Suddenly when we went through the exit... we came back to the reality of the prison world. It's still hard for me to believe."

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