Apr 28, 2015 7:00 AM

Coffins arrive at Indonesian prison as executions near

The Associated Press

CILICAP, Indonesia (AP) Ambulances carrying coffins arrived Tuesday at a prison island and relatives paid final visits to their condemned loved ones in a sign that Indonesia will imminently execute eight foreigners and one Indonesian man, despite an international outcry and pleas for mercy.

The nine inmates, all convicted on drug charges, were given 72-hour notices over the weekend that they would be executed by a firing squad, prompting a flurry of last-minute lobbying by foreign leaders. The United Nations has argued that the inmates' crimes are not egregious enough to warrant the ultimate punishment.

Indonesia has not said exactly when the executions will take place. But the arrival of the coffins and the families' visits Tuesday, along with comments by lawyers and Indonesia's usual execution protocol, suggest the inmates will be shot shortly after midnight.

The relatives were being allowed to visit with the inmates until 8 p.m., said Tony Spontana, spokesman for Indonesia's attorney general.

"All the officials, prosecutors, firing squads and ambulances are in place, so hopefully the time (of the executions) is getting closer," he told reporters. "So at the moment, we're entering the quiet period before the executions, which will be carried out this week."

Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo would not confirm comments by defense lawyers that the executions would be carried out in the early hours of Wednesday morning. "Let them count by themselves, that is their business," he said. "They defend their clients, we defend the nation."

Among the condemned are two Australians Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31 whose emotional families made what could be their last visit to Besi prison on Nusakambangan island, where the prisoners are scheduled to die.

Sukumaran's sister, Brintha, wailed in agony and had to be carried through a crowd of media waiting at the ferry port to the island.

Chan received a visit from Febyanti Herewila, an Indonesian Christian pastor who became his wife in a marriage ceremony on the island on Monday.

A dozen ambulances, nine carrying coffins, were driven onto the ferry to Nusakambangan. On the dashboard of one ambulance was a piece of paper bearing the name of Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipino woman who is among those scheduled to die.

Over the weekend, authorities asked the nine inmates the two Australians and Veloso, as well as four Nigerian men and one man each from Brazil and Indonesia for their last wishes and gave them a 72-hour notice of their executions.

On Tuesday, Australia's foreign minister defended Prime Minister Tony Abbott against online criticism that he had not done enough to save the lives of Sukumaran and Chan.

Australian actors including Geoffrey Rush, Guy Pearce, Joel Edgerton and Bryan Brown have launched an online video calling for Indonesia to show mercy to the two men.

"Tony, if you have any courage and compassion, you'd get over to Indonesia and bring these two boys home," actor Brendan Cowell said to the prime minister.

But Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the Australian government was acting on advice from Australian diplomats in Jakarta who were part of a sustained campaign seeking a stay of execution.

"Clearly if traveling to Indonesia would make a difference, we would have gone there," Bishop told Nine Network television.

Abbott has spoken to Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo several times on the issue, most recently in Singapore in late March at the funeral of Lee Kuan Yew, the city-state's first prime minister, Bishop said.

She said her Indonesian counterpart, Retno Marsudi, wrote to her Monday night and gave no indication that the executions would not go ahead as early as Wednesday morning.

"While they are still alive, there is still hope and I will continue to advocate all throughout today," Bishop said.

Prasetyo said Monday that another convict, Frenchman Serge Atlaoui, would not be executed with the others because he still has an outstanding legal complaint over the rejection of his clemency appeal.

Prasetyo said Atlaoui would later face a firing squad alone if his complaint is turned down by the Administrative Court. Similar appeals by Sukumaran and Chan were rejected by the Administrative Court and the High Administrative Court, with both ruling that clemency is the prerogative of the president.

The head of Europe's human rights watchdog on Tuesday urged Indonesia not to carry out the executions. The France-based Council of Europe holds its 47 member countries accountable to the European Convention on Human Rights, which opposes the death penalty.

"The death penalty is a terrible injustice which can never be put right," Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said in a statement. He urged Indonesia to refrain from the executions and "then to consider introducing a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to working towards abolition."

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III appealed to Jokowi on Monday to spare the life of Veloso, the Filipino drug convict, in a meeting on the sidelines of an annual summit of Southeast Asian leaders in Malaysia.

Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao also appealed to Jokowi to spare Veloso's life.

"I am begging and knocking at your kind heart that your excellency will grant executive clemency to her by sparing her life and saving her from execution," Pacquiao said in a live interview from Los Angeles with Philippine network GMA News.

Veloso's two sons and her mother were seen arriving at the prison for a final visit.


Associated Press writers Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, Niniek Karmini and Ali Kotarumalos in Jakarta, Indonesia, Teresa Cerojano in Manila, Philippines, and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed to this report.


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