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Jakarta: Advocates saved her

THE Indonesian government confirmed Thursday that it was a meeting with a local human rights group that swayed President Joko Widodo to grant a last-minute stay of execution to Filipino maid Mary Jane Veloso, who was scheduled to be executed Wednesday.

“The decision to delay the death penalty was taken after the President received a report about the legal process that is running in Philippines,” the Indonesian Cabinet Secretariat posted on its official Twitter account, a day after the Aquino administration took credit for the temporary reprieve.

“Because the legal process is still running in the Philippines , so it must be ensured Mary Jane Veloso gets justice,” the secretariat said.

“President Jokowi hears and heeds the voice of human rights activists who continue to accompany him in performing his constitutional duties.”

“The President believes that the synergy of this kind must be maintained in the future. In cases of human rights, the President requested that the activists do not tire of commenting on thePresident in making decisions,” it added.

The Cabinet secretariat said Widodo had a meeting with three labor groups on April 28 and noted the “synergy” between the Widodo administration and human rights activists, who launched daily protests and an Internet campaign to save the life of Veloso.

On April 29, the Indonesian Attorney General’s Office said Veloso was given a temporary reprieve from her scheduled execution on Wednesday morning after her alleged trafficker, Maria Kristina Sergio, surrendered to the police.

AGO spokesman Tony Spontana said the Philippine government had said Veloso was needed to testify as a witness as she was one of Sergio’s alleged human trafficking victims.

Veloso, who was arrested in 2010 after she was caught with 2.6 kilos of heroin in her luggage at the Adisucipto International Airport in Yogyakarta, was among nine death row inmates slated to be executed in the early hours of Wednesday.

Despite international pressure, the government executed eight death row prisoners early on Wednesday on Nusakambangan prison island near Cilacap in Central Java.

The eight others were Indonesian Zainal Abidin, Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte, Nigerians Sylvester Obiekwe Nwolise, Raheem Agbaje Salami and Okwudili Oyatanze, Ghanaian Martin Anderson.

The Palace took credit Wednesday for obtaining Veloso’s stay of execution, but a migrant workers group in Indonesia said a meeting they had with Widodo might have helped change his mind.

Anis Hidayah, executive director of Migrant Care Indonesia, said she met on Tuesday afternoon with Widodo, who unexpectedly asked about Veloso’s case.

Hidayah said they told Widodo that Veloso was a victim of human trafficking and that the same thing was happening to many Indonesian migrant workers abroad who face the death penalty.

Hidayah said they wanted to make sure Widodo was informed about the vulnerability of migrant workers, particularly those from the Philippines and Indonesia, to drug smuggling syndicates.

Widodo’s initial response was that other drug couriers would also claim that they were victims.

But Hidayah, who said she was crying when she talked to Widodo, told him, “If we kill the victims and tomorrow we find new evidence, how can we be responsible for this, after the execution?”

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