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Veloso execution a done deal

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Relatives and diplomats rushed to an Indonesian prison island Friday ahead of the looming executions of nine foreign drug convicts—including Filipino maid Mary Jane Veloso—who are set to be shot in defiance of international outrage.

Indonesian police officers escort an armored vehicle that took Filipina drug convict
Mary Jane Veloso to Nusakambangan maximum security prison island in Cilacap
off central Java island. Ten convicts -- from Australia, France, Brazil, the Philippines,
Nigeria, Ghana and Indonesia—will face the firing squad after recently losing appeals
for presidential clemency, typically the final chance to avoid execution.  AFP

Indonesia has advised consular officials to go to Nusakambangan, the high-security prison island where its executions are carried out, and where all of the death row convicts have now been taken.

The government said an exact date for the executions could not be decided yet, as a judicial review was still pending for the sole Indonesian in the group of 10 people who face death by firing squad.

“We hope that the decision will be made as soon as possible so that we will have a chance to determine the D-Day of the executions,” Tony Spontana, spokesman for Indonesia’s attorney-general, told reporters.

“The theme of the impending executions is a war against drugs,” he said, while indicating that more than the legally required minimum notice period of 72 hours might be given to the foreign embassies.

The foreigners—two from Australia, one each from Brazil, France and the Philippines, and four from Africa -- have all lost appeals for clemency from President Joko Widodo, who argues that Indonesia is fighting a drugs emergency.

Veloso, a 30-year-old maid whose two sons aged 12 and six have come to spend her final hours with her, was transferred Friday morning under heavy police guard to Nusakambangan, sparking protests in Manila.

Her lawyers filed another court bid to halt the process but Indonesia says all judicial reviews and appeals for clemency have been exhausted, and that such attempts are merely delaying tactics.

“Maybe, the best we can hope for is a commutation of the death sentence,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said.

Vice President Jejomar Binay said he appealed again for clemency for Veloso during a meeting with his Indonesia counterpart, Jusuf Kalla, on Thursday.

“I appeal to you on considerations of compassion, and assure you that the Philippine government is exhausting all avenues to ensure that proper justice is served to those responsible for deceiving Mary Jane into having brought the drugs into Indonesia,” Binay said, quoting from a written appeal he handed to Kalla.

Veloso’s plight has been keenly felt in the Philippines, where around 100 protesters carrying “Save the life of Mary Jane” signs in the Bahasa Indonesia language picketed Jakarta’s embassy in Manila.

“Mary Jane doesn’t have that much time. The (Philippine) government must show determination to save her from death row,” Garry Martinez of the overseas workers support group Migrante said.

Veloso claims a family friend, working with an international crime gang, had secretly stashed heroin in her suitcase when she was arrested at Yogyakarta airport in 2009.

The Foreign Affairs Department said Friday it had yet to receive a copy from the Philippine Embassy in Jakarta of a letter from the Attorney General’s Office ordering Veloso’s execution.

A report from the Jakarta Post said office had released a letter to execute 10 convicts with drug-related charges, including Veloso.

“We haven’t receive any formal letter from our consulate in Jakarta, so we cannot confirm it,” Jose said.

He said the government is doing all it can to save Veloso, including filing a second appeal for a judicial review on her behalf hours after she was transferred to Nusakambangan.

Nusakambangan Island is considered the “Alcatraz of Indonesia” where those sentenced to death are executed. Most executions are performed in the middle of the night where the convict is blindfolded and tied to a post.

The husband and sister of Mary Jane are already in Yogyakarta, Indonesia but it was still uncertain if they would get the chance to see her.

A Palace spokesperson said President Benigno Aquino III has spoken to Indonesian President Joko Widodo to appeal for Veloso’s life.

“The DFA is along with us. We’re currently monitoring the situation in light of the movement that happened early this morning,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.

But the research group Ibon Foundation said Veloso’s case was a mirror of the Aquino administration’s neglect of the welfare of millions of Filipino overseas workers.

“The recent case of Mary Jane Veloso blatantly illustrates government’s failure to defend the rights of the country’s millions of overseas workers,” said Sonny Africa, executive director at Ibon.

Ibon said this neglect was reflected in the falling government budget for overseas workers while aggressively pursuing a labor export policy.

Relatives of the other death row convicts rushed to Indonesia.

Chinthu Sukumaran, whose brother Myuran is one of two Australians in the group on death row, was making last-minute arrangements to leave for Jakarta.

“I can’t believe this is it. We still haven’t given up hope,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Michael Chan, whose brother Andrew faces death too as a fellow ringleader of the “Bali Nine” heroin trafficking gang, was also heading to Indonesia, the newspaper said.

Consular staff assisting a Brazilian convict were told by Indonesian authorities to be in Cilacap, the port town nearest Nusakambangan, on Saturday.

Lawyers for the two Australians were to meet Australian embassy officials in Cilacap Saturday as Canberra said it was “gravely concerned” at the signs that the executions are drawing near.

“Our ambassador in Jakarta is currently engaged in making a series of representations,” Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs said.

One of the convicts was previously identified by the Indonesian government as Ghanaian, but Spontana said he was in fact from Nigeria, along with three other Nigerians in the group.

France on Thursday accused Indonesia of “serious dysfunction” in its legal system that led to Frenchman Serge Atlaoui being sentenced to death, and said his execution would be “incomprehensible.”

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