Bali Nine: Australia recalls ambassador as world condemns executions

Indonesia criticised after Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, four Nigerian men, an Indonesian and a Brazilian are executed by firing squad

Indonesia’s execution of eight drug offenders on Wednesday drew international condemnation and swift diplomatic retaliation from Australia, which announced the recall of its envoy to Jakarta over the “cruel and unnecessary” killings.

Supporters of Mary Jane Veloso, a woman from the Phillipines who was also scheduled to die, celebrated her “miraculous” last-minute reprieve from the firing squad as Indonesian officials stressed her death had been “postponed, not cancelled”.

Along with Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, four Nigerian men, an Indonesian and a Brazilian were executed by firing squad at 12:30am, local time, on the Indonesian prison island of Nusa Kambangan.

The deaths of Chan and Sukumaran, convicted for their part in the so-called Bali Nine plot to export 8.3kg of heroin from Indonesia into Australia, came despite years of high-profile campaigns and high-level representations by Australian diplomats.

It can’t be ‘business as usual’ with Indonesia after Bali Nine executions, Tony Abbott says

The Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, announced the recall of ambassador Paul Grigson from Jakarta on Wednesday morning.

“These executions are both cruel and unnecessary; cruel because both Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran spent some decade in jail before being executed, and unnecessary, because both of these young Australians were fully rehabilitated while in prison,” the prime minister said.

Ministerial contacts between the two countries had been suspended “and they will remain suspended for a period”, Abbott said.

“This is a dark moment in the relationship [but] I am confident that the relationship will be restored.”

Indonesia’s attorney general, HM Prasetyo, said the withdrawal of the ambassador would be only “momentary”.

“The Netherlands have done the same thing in the past. Brazil has done the same thing,” he said. “I think this is just a momentary reaction, and this will be settled within the diplomatic sphere. What we are doing is carrying out the court decision. Every case should have an end.”

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 Indonesian Zainal Abidin.

Veloso was temporarily spared after the woman she claims recruited her as an unknowing drug courier handed herself into Philippines police on Tuesday, hours before Veloso was scheduled to die.

Prasetyo said on Wednesday her death sentence had been “postponed, not cancelled”, after the government acceded to a request by the Philippines to allow Veloso the chance to testify against the courier, Maria Kristina Sergio, and others in human trafficking cases.

“That was why, in the end, we decided to respect the legal process going on in the Philippines, postponing the execution,” he said.

But he maintained that Veloso’s attempt to smuggle heroin into the country would still be taken into account. “Even if she was discovered to be a victim of human trafficking, the fact is that she was caught bringing heroin into Indonesia. [Being a victim] will not erase Mary Jane’s criminal responsibility,” he said.

He refused to answer whether Veloso’s sentence would be reduced if she was discovered to be a victim, but said that she was allowed to file another case review.

Asked whether Indonesia would consider a moratorium on the death penalty, he replied he would “have to think about it”.

“Particularly if we relate that to Indonesians facing death penalty in other countries. Let’s say we implement a moratorium on death penalty, will other countries do the same? There’s no guarantee, right?” he said.

News of Veloso’s eleventh hour reprieve caught out newspapers in the Philippines, whose front pages on Wednesday carried dramatic headlines announcing her death.

“Farewell, Mary Jane”, read the black-themed front page of Manila’s best-selling Filipino-language tabloid Abante. The Philippine Daily Inquirer announced: “Death came before dawn”.

Others such as the tabloid Standard declared, “PNoy is to blame”, blaming the supposed “negligence” of the Philippines’ president, Benigno Aquino, for failing to save the woman whose case has gripped the country.

Details emerged of the final moments of the eight prisoners, who declined to be blindfolded and reportedly sang hymns including Amazing Grace as their executions loomed.

“They were praising their god,” Pastor de Vega, who was present on the island, told Fairfax Media. “It was breathtaking. This was the first time I witnessed someone so excited to meet their god.”

The Brazilian government expressed its “deep sadness” at the execution of one of its citizens, 42-year-old Rodrigo Gularte, which it called a “serious event” in bilateral relations.

Gularte, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, was caught at Jakarta airport in 2004 with 6kg of cocaine hidden in a cavity in his surfboard.

He is the second Brazilian to be executed in Indonesia this year. In January, Marco Moreira was also shot by a firing squad after being convicted of drug trafficking.

The earlier execution prompted a diplomatic crisis. The Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff, said she was “appalled and outraged” by what happened, recalled the country’s ambassador in Jakarta for consultations and refused to accept the credentials of the new Indonesian ambassador in Brasilia.

The latest killing would prompt a further review of relations, diplomats said. “Both governments had categorised their ties as strategic and important, but obviously the fact that so many presidential appeals and other efforts of the Brazilian government have failed to produce a satisfactory answer is something that should be evaluated,” ambassador Sérgio França Danese said.

The bodies of the two Australians arrive in Jakarta as the United Nations calls for the abolition of the death penalty. Link to video

The bodies of Chan and Sukumaran arrived at a funeral home in West Jakarta on Wednesday afternoon, local time, and will be flown to Australia on Friday.

In a short statement the families of the two Australians thanked supporters. “Today we lost Myuran and Andrew. Our sons, our brothers. In the 10 years since they were arrested they did all they could to make amends, helping many others. They asked for mercy, but there was none,” they said.

“They were immensely grateful for all the support they received. We too, will be forever grateful.”

The Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, has announced his intention to clear the country’s death row of drug traffickers, insisting that narcotics are “a national emergency” that require an unforgiving response.

More than 30 foreigners are estimated to be on death row in Indonesia, but plans for a third round of executions have yet to be announced.


Michael Safi Sydney, Jonathan Watts Rio de Janeiro, Kate Lamb Jakarta, Dina Indrasafi Cilicap

The GuardianTramp

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