Indonesia executes drug traffickers, sparks anger from Australia, Brazil
CILACAP, INDONESIA – An Indonesian firing squad executed eight drug traffickers, including seven foreigners, in the early hours of Wednesday, sparking condemnation from Australia and Brazil who had made final, desperate pleas to save their nationals.
The mass execution cements the hard line on enforcing the death penalty adopted by Indonesian President Joko Widodo when he came to office last July, damaging diplomatic relations with several countries.
Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were shot along with four Nigerians, a Brazilian and an Indonesian in a forest clearing near the prison, as family members held a candle-light vigil within earshot of the firing range.
“All eight were executed at the same second at 0035 hours,” Indonesian Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo told reporters on the prison island of Nusakambangan in Central Java.
Both Australia and Brazil oppose capital punishment and have railed against Widodo’s move to step up the pace of executions, after a five-year moratorium, since coming to office last July.
Australia said it was recalling its ambassador to Jakarta, a step already taken by Brazil over the execution of another prisoner in January. The south American country is now considering what further action it will take.
Australia has deep commercial and political ties with its big neighbor, but has said the executions would not impact trade relations. Brazil, too, will be wary of jeopardizing valuable defense contracts.
The United Nations described the executions as “extremely regrettable, extremely sad” and reiterated its appeal for Indonesia to reinstate its moratorium on the death penalty.
Widodo’s steadfastness on the executions, which has strong public support at home, stands in contrast to a series of policy flip-flops since he took office six months ago. Palace insiders and government officials portray him as sometimes out of his depth and struggling to get around entrenched vested interests.
Charlie Burrows, religious counselor to the Brazilian convict who was with the prisoners before the execution, said all eight had refused blindfolds before they were shot.
Australian media reports said the men were all singing when they were executed near the prison.
Their families lit a candle as they watched the procession of cars taking the prisoners to the execution site, the Sydney Morning Herald reported, adding many became hysterical when gunshots rang out a short time later.
Rob Buckingham, the husband of Chan’s spiritual adviser Christie Buckingham, said his wife had texted him to say the group met their deaths with dignity. “She told me the eight of them walked out onto the killing field singing songs of praise,” Buckingham told 3AW radio.
The families of Chan and Sukumaran released a statement early on Wednesday referring to the Australian government’s claim the pair had been fully reformed since being arrested over a plot to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia in 2005.
“In the 10 years since they were arrested, they did all they could to make amends, helping many others,” the statement said.
MILITARY DEAL AT RISK
Recalling an ambassador is a step rarely taken by Australia, and never previously taken over a prisoner execution.
Still, Abbott’s comments, while condemning the executions as “cruel and unnecessary” were more circumspect than those of many other Australians who expressed their outrage on twitter and other social media.
The hashtag #boycottIndonesia was trending, even as Abbott cautioned against a trade or tourism backlash.
“We respect Indonesia’s sovereignty but we do deplore what’s been done and this cannot be simply business as usual,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters in Canberra.
“I want to stress that this is a very important relationship between Australia and Indonesia but it has suffered as a result of what’s been done over the last few hours.”
While critical, Brazil, which has a $5 billion trade surplus with Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, will also be wary of losing a major military export deal to Indonesia over the executions row.
The Brazilian government said in a statement it was shocked by the news, which marked the second execution of a Brazilian in Indonesia in three months despite President Dilma Rousseff’s personal humanitarian appeals.
Brazil’s foreign ministry said it was evaluating ties with Indonesia before deciding what action to take.
Indonesia said earlier it was reviewing the purchase of a second batch of Brazil-made Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano aircraft and an order for multiple rocket launch systems after Brazil refused to allow Indonesia’s new ambassador to take part in a credentials ceremony. – Reuters