CHARLES OKOH, with Agency report
Between January and April 2015, five Nigerians have been executed by the government of the Republic of Indonesia over drug related offences. Even with the scary figure it is still not to be unexpected that some are still making plans to travel to that country for the same reasons these Nigerians and other nationals have been executed.
The fact that these executions have always been met with international condemnation has still not stopped the Indonesian government from these acts.
With the recent execution last Wednesday, the Nigerian government has asked the Indonesian Government for the repatriation of the remains of the executed Nigerians.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the request was made to ensure that the executed persons could be accorded decent burials in their various communities.
Four Nigerians Martin Anderson, Okwudili Oyatanze, Jaminu Abashin and Sylvester Obiekwe were executed on Tuesday by the Indonesian government for drug related offences.
The Ministry said the government of Nigeria received the news of the execution with deep disappointment.
“These executions have taken place despite spirited pleas for clemency made at the highest level by President Goodluck Jonathan and more recently, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Aminu Bashir Wali, on 21 April, during the 10th Anniversary of the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership Summit which took place in Indonesia, Jakarta,” the statement read.
The Nigerian government further expressed its condolences to the families of the deceased, saying it had requested for their remains so they could be accorded decent burial.
Indonesia had defended the execution of the four Nigerians and four others.
The country’s Attorney-General, Muhamad Prasetyo, said Indonesia is waging war against horrible drug crimes that threatens the nation’s survival.
He added that while execution is not a pleasant thing, it must be done in order to save the nation from the danger of drugs.
“We are not making enemies of countries from where those executed came,” Prasetyo said.
The convicts were shot by firing squad along with one Indonesian, despite strident foreign appeals and pleas for mercy from family members.
Also expressing its commitment to the fight against drugs, the Nigerian government warned all Nigerians to desist from drug trafficking and other offences that attract maximum punishment in several countries of the world.
The government promised that it would continue to promote the welfare and protect the lives of Nigerians abroad, no matter their circumstances.
It also expressed its commitment to engaging the Government of Indonesia and other friendly countries regarding the conclusion of Prisoner Transfer Agreements and other bilateral means of safeguarding the interest and welfare of Nigerians.
Of the eight who were executed on Wednesday, the case of Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte attracted more international attention because he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, a condition which according to the priest who attended to him, made it difficult for him to communicate the fate that awaited him before the arrival of the executioner.
The Priest said he tried in vain for three days to explain to the inmate he was about to die.
Gulante had no idea he was about to be killed until his final minutes, the priest who counselled him has said.
Also, it was revealed that Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipino woman who won a dramatic reprieve, had been aware a new suspect in her case had surrendered to police but was only removed from the prison about an hour before the killings.
Gularte, 42, was shot dead alongside seven others, including four Nigerians, two Australians and an Indonesian, for smuggling cocaine into Indonesia in 2004.
A second diagnosis, commissioned by Indonesia’s attorney general, has not been made public.
Father Charlie Burrows, a priest who ministers to prisoners in Cilacap, said he had tried in vain to explain to Gularte for three days that he was about to be killed.
“He was hearing voices all the time,” Burrows told Irish radio. “I talked to him for about an hour and a half, trying to prepare him for the execution. I said to him, ‘I’m 72 years old, I’ll be heading to heaven in the near future, so you find out where my house is and prepare a garden for me.’
“But when they took [the prisoners] out of the cells … and when they put these bloody chains on them, he said to me, ‘Am I being executed?’ “ Burrows said.
“I said, ‘Yes, I thought I explained that to you.’ He didn’t get excited – he’s a quiet sort of a guy – but he said, ‘This is not right.’
“He’s lost because he’s a schizophrenic. He asked if there was a sniper outside ready to shoot him, and I said no, and whether somebody would shoot him in the car, and I said no,” Burrows said.
After Gularte was strapped to a wooden plank, Burrows was permitted to see him again: “He said, ‘This is not right, I made one small mistake, and I shouldn’t have to die for it.’ So he was annoyed more than anything else, because he’s a soft-spoken, quiet and sensitive man.”
Burrows told Guardian Australia that guards on Nusa Kambangan, the prison island where Indonesia executes convicts, had broken down crying when 30-year-old Mary Jane Veloso said goodbye to her two children for what was thought to be the final time.
He said Veloso had shown “a false sense of joy” during her final visit with her family and sons, aged 12 and six, but broke down at 2pm on Tuesday when told it was time to say goodbye. “She begged for more time, ‘Will I not get longer with my children? They’ll never see me again, I’ll never see them again,’” Burrows said.
“The whole place broke down in tears. The warden and attorneys felt real bad about it. They said to me they didn’t agree with the thing, they just had to do their job, that there should be a moratorium.”
He said some of the guards had asked him: “Are we responsible for the suffering of this poor woman and the families?”
Veloso, sentenced to death after arriving in Yogyakarta in 2010 with 2.6kg of heroin in her suitcase, has claimed she was set up by a human trafficker. She was granted a reprieve late on Tuesday after the suspected trafficker surrendered to Philippine police. Veloso was told of the development on Tuesday afternoon, Burrows said, but her fate seemed sealed.
It was between 10pm and 11pm, when the prisoners were locked in their cells for the final time, that she was taken away. “We were in the cells, just the time they give to the spiritual companions, and they took her out,” Burrows said.
“In the last minute she was actually in the cell with the police, there was three police, and they took her out back to Yogyakarta.”
Just after 11pm the prisoners were taken individually from the cells and driven to the execution site. They would not have been aware Veloso had been spared until they assembled at the firing range, he said.
He said the two Australians, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, led hymns among the prisoners as they waited to be killed, joined by their spiritual advisers 30 metres away. “They were all trying to be strong because it was uppermost in their minds that they had made a mistake and that mistake has had a devastating effect on their families,” he said.
Nigerians Raheem Agbaje Salami (also known as Jamiu Owolabi Abashin), Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise, Martin Anderson and Okwuduli Oyatanze were also executed on Wednesday morning, along with an Indonesian, Zainal Abidin.
The Indonesian attorney general, HM Prasetyo, said on Wednesday the eight men, all drug offenders, had been executed simultaneously at 12.35am local time. They were declared dead three minutes later.
“The result of the second execution was better, more orderly and more perfect than the last,” he said, referring to executions carried out in January and noting the bodies were treated more “humanely” this time.
“Out of the eight executed, four, according to their last requests, are to be buried in their home countries,” Prasetyo said. “Two in Australia, one in Brazil, and one in Nigeria.”
Abidin, the only Indonesian among the eight, was buried in Cilacap, near Nusa Kambangan, on Wednesday morning. Salami was to be buried in Madiun, East Java, and Anderson in Bekasi, West Java, he said.
The bodies of Chan and Sukumarun were expected to arrive back in Australia for burial on Friday.
Capital punishment in Indonesia is restricted to 16 crimes. Though the death penalty existed as a punishment from the inception of the Republic of Indonesia, the first execution did not take place until 1973.
The Republic of Indonesia is a sovereign state in Southeast Asia, with an estimated total population of over 252 million people. Indonesia is the world’s fourth-most-populous country.
According to Wikipedia, the Indonesian government does not issue detailed statistics about every person facing the death penalty in the country. In fact, “the search for precise gures is hampered by prevailing state secrecy over the death penalty.” It is believed, however, that there are around 130 people, Indonesians and foreign nationals, currently (as of 2013?) sentenced to die in Indonesia. About 10 new death sentences are handed down annually, though executions are infrequent. Many of the prisoners awaiting execution have been waiting for 10 years or more. Four executions took place in 2013, the first since 2008. In 2014, no executions took place. In January 2015 six people (among them one Dutchman, one Brazilian, one Vietnamese, one Malawian and Nigerian) were shot for drug-related crimes. Further executions are planned for 2015. Ironically, Indonesia is well noted as “a strong advocate against the death penalty for its citizens abroad.”
Prisoners (particularly those convicted of murder, terrorism or drug trafficking offences) spend a long time in prison before their sentence is finally carried out. Usually their final appeal has been exhausted through the courts and President. Prisoners and their families are notified 72 hours in advance of their pending execution. They are usually transferred to Nusa Kambangan island. They are woken up in the middle of the night and taken to a remote (and undisclosed) location and executed by firing squad. The method has not changed since 1964.
Capital punishment is carried out in Indonesia by a firing squad. The blindfolded prisoner is led to a grassy area where they have an option to sit or stand. The 12 armed executioners shoot the prisoner in the chest from a range of five to ten metres. Only three fire live bullets and the rest fire blanks. If the prisoner does not die, the Commander is required to issue a final bullet to the prisoner’s head.