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Death for 9 drug convicts set to come before dawn

PH was praying for a miracle to save her
01:01 AM April 29, 2015
EMBRACING HER FATE WITH OPEN ARMS  Condemned to death, Filipino Mary Jane Veloso still manages to smile and shine in a colorful and floral Indonesian dress at Yogyakarta prison on Kartini Day on April 21, incredibly only seven days before her scheduled execution, to  honor Indonesia’s national hero and woman’s rights activist Raden Kartini.  AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

EMBRACING HER FATE WITH OPEN ARMS Condemned to death, Filipino Mary Jane Veloso still manages to smile and shine in a colorful and floral Indonesian dress at Yogyakarta prison on Kartini Day on April 21, incredibly only seven days before her scheduled execution, to honor Indonesia’s national hero and woman’s rights activist Raden Kartini. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CILACAP, Indonesia—Only a miracle could have saved her.

Twelve sharpshooters were assigned to each of the nine convicts, all aiming at his and her heart at a distance of five to 10 meters. Only three guns are loaded for each set of sharpshooters, according to Amnesty International, the Britain-based human rights group vehemently opposed to capital punishment in all forms.

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The family of Mary Jane Veloso on Tuesday joined the relatives of eight other convicts facing execution—possibly by midnight—in a final anguished farewell, wailing in grief as a dozen ambulances carrying empty white coffins arrived at their prison.

As the Velosos got out of the van for their last visit to Mary Jane, Filipino priest Fr. Harold Toledano gave them each a blessing before they headed to the island prison of Nusakambangan.

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“The family was so silent. It’s really very sad. We see a kind of deep pain,” he told reporters.

“We’re hoping for a miracle,” said Veloso’s sister Marites.

Veloso’s two sons and her mother were also seen arriving at the prison.

The families of the doomed convicts had been asked to say their last goodbyes by Tuesday afternoon as signs were mounting that the death sentences would be carried out by early Wednesday after authorities gave them final notice of their executions.

Australian media have published photos of crosses that will be used for the coffins, inscribed with Wednesday’s date, 29.04.2015, which was blacked out later.

A reporter from Agence France-Presse at Nusakambangan, the high-security prison where the prisoners were awaiting their sentence, said ambulances carrying the empty white coffins arrived on Tuesday.

‘We’ll not change our mind’

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President Aquino on Monday asked Indonesian President Joko Widodo to show mercy, but Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo said the execution of Veloso, who maintains she was an unwitting mule for the heroin that was found in the lining of her suitcase, would go ahead.

“We will not change our mind,” said Prasetyo.

Aside from Veloso, the convicts, who have been held in isolation cells since the weekend, include an Indonesian and nationals from Australia, Brazil and Nigeria.

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.

Everyone in place

“All the officials, prosecutors, firing squad and ambulances are in place, so hopefully the time (of the executions) is getting closer,” he told reporters.

The family members of Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, ringleaders of the so-called “Bali Nine” heroin trafficking group, arrived at Nusakambangan prison calling for mercy for their loved ones, with Sukumaran’s sister collapsing and having to be carried.

Widodo has signaled his determination to push on with the executions despite mounting international condemnation. Prasetyo said that authorities would not announce a date before the executions.

The families of Chan and Sukumaran, who have been visiting them frequently in recent days, were unable to control their emotions as they arrived at Cilacap, the town that serves as the gateway to Nusakambangan.

Members of Sukumaran’s family screamed and cried out “mercy” as they walked in a slow procession to the port.

Convict’s sister collapsing

Sukumaran’s sister Brintha wailed and called out her brother’s name, collapsing into the arms of family members who had to carry her.

Chan’s mother was shielded by family members but was clearly distraught as she passed waiting media.

Chan, who like Sukumaran is in his 30s, married his Indonesian girlfriend in a jailhouse ceremony with family and friends on Nusakambangan on Monday, his final wish.

Death row convicts in Indonesia can request spiritual counselors in their final hours, but the Australian media said that Chan and Sukumaran’s requests had been rejected, with Indonesian authorities deciding to give them companions of their choosing.

Global condemnation

“Last bit of dignity denied,” Chan’s brother Michael told Fairfax Media in a text.

Jakarta is determined to press ahead with the executions despite a wave of global condemnation led by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Australia has been pursuing an eleventh-hour campaign to save the lives of Sukumaran and Chan, who were arrested in 2005 as the ringleaders of a plot to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia.

The pending executions have strained Indonesia’s relations with Australia, Nigeria and Brazil, which will likely worsen after the death sentences are carried out.

Australia-Indonesia relations have been tested in recent years by disputes over people smuggling and spying. In late 2013, Indonesia recalled its envoy and froze military and intelligence cooperation over reports that Canberra had spied on top Indonesian officials, including the former president’s wife.

“We don’t want to make enemies with any country, but we are fighting narcotics whose impacts are horrific, especially in Indonesia,” Prasetyo said.

A group of Australian celebrities, including Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush, made a video titled “Save our boys, Mr. Abbott,” urging Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to dash to Jakarta on a mercy mission for Sukumaran and Chan.

6 executed so far

Indonesia has harsh punishments for drug crimes and resumed executions in 2013 after a five-year gap. Six have been executed so far this year.

This round of simultaneous executions has been delayed for weeks due to a series of last-minute legal challenges. The Constitutional Court on Monday agreed to hear a final challenge by the Australian pair, but the government said the executions would not be delayed any longer.

“Something we want to revise now are the legal reviews because these reviews have no time limit,” Prasetyo said. “We will recommend a time limit. There will be legal certainty.”

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.–Wire reports

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TAGS: Illegal Drugs, Indonesia, Mary Jane Veloso, nine convicts
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