bali nine execution
British woman Lindsay Sandiford is on death row in Indonesia for smuggling cocaine into Bali. Photograph: Sonny Tumbelaka/AFP/Getty Images
Deaths of eight prisoners, including two Australians, prompted a huge outcry – and a pause in executions. But now foreigners on death row fear their own sentences could be just weeks away
The chatter is ominous. Talk that the death squad is at the ready; that a new, bigger execution ground is in the making. Officials say it could be just weeks away.
And after the circus last year, the security minister Luhut Panjaitan hopes there will be less “drama” this time around.
One year after the international uproar and the diplomatic fallout over the execution of eight drug traffickers – including two Australian men, Bali Nine pair Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran – it appears more executions could be on Indonesia’s horizon this year. Among the foreigners on death row in Indonesia are two Britons, convicted drug smugglers Lindsay Sandiford and Gareth Cashmore.
“I still don’t want to believe it, ” says lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis, who this time last year was fighting to save the lives of Chan and Sukumaran. “Yes, there will probably be a statement, but in the end I don’t think there will be any executions. I refuse to believe it.”
After 14 prisoners were executed at dawn in two separate rounds in early 2015, a third round has been on hold for the past year, ostensibly for economic reasons, but perhaps, in part, for political ones, too.
Australians Myuran Sukumaran, left, and Andrew Chan, two of the Bali Nine drug smuggling ring, were executed by firing squad in Indonesia a year ago. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
This month, even as Indonesia was being booed at the United Nations for reiterating its support for the death penalty for drug offenders – a punitive action that runs counter to international law – the attorney general Muhammad Prasetyo indicated that another round would go ahead.
The British prime minister, David Cameron, said he had raised the case of Sandiford – the English woman sentenced to death for smuggling almost 4kg of cocaine into Bali – during an official visit to Jakarta last year, but she remains in the same position.
When questioned on the death penalty by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, on a recent visit to Berlin, the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, or Jokowi, defended capital punishment as a justified approach to the country’s “drug emergency”.
There is nothing definitive yet, no date, and no official list of the next prisoners to face the firing squad: the Indonesian government is keeping its cards close to the chest. But some are still operating on the assumption that it is probably just a matter of time.
“The last information we received is that the attorney general has asked the parliament for the budget for the third round, ” says Putri Kanesia, from the Jakarta-based human rights organisation Kontras. “But they should stop and evaluate the first and second batch. There were a lot of unfair trials.”
Bali Nine: Indonesia’s executions draw worldwide condemnation
According to Amnesty International, there were at least 165 people on death row in Indonesia at the end of 2015, and more than 40% of those were sentenced for drug-related crimes. Indonesia has some of the harshest drug laws in the world, and Jokowi has stated that no drug prisoner will receive a pardon from him.
But the Kontras team is currently pushing to get the case details of one death row prisoner on to the president’s desk.
Allegedly tortured in detention, and told by his lawyer that he did not have the right to appeal, Yusman Telaumbanua was, Kontras claims, a minor when the crime for which he was convicted was committed. This would make it illegal to execute him under Indonesian law.