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Indonesia executes 8 drug smugglers by firing squad

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Two Australians who’d been convicted of drug smuggling were executed Tuesday in Indonesia, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said at a press conference.

The Australians were among the eight drug smugglers put to death on Tuesday, the Reuters news agency has reported, citing local media. The prisoners faced a 12-man firing squad on Nusa Kambangan island in Central Java.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, appearing at a press conference, condemned the executions and said Australia would immediately withdraw its ambassador to Indonesia for consultations.

Abbott called the executions “cruel and unnecessary” because both men, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, had been “fully rehabilitated” during a decade in prison.

Abbott didn’t say what permanent actions, if any, would be taken against Indonesia. “This is a dark moment in the relationship, but I’m sure the relationship will be restored,” he said.

The Indonesian government had announced that nine prisoners would be executed, but according to local reports, Filipina Mary Jane Veloso was spared, at least for now.

Lawyers fighting to delay the death of Veloso, a domestic helper and mother of two, have said they’ve given up their bid after her second legal review was rejected on Monday. This came despite a last-minute personal appeal from Philippines President Benigno Aquino to Indonesian counterpart President Joko Widodo.

The Australians executed were part of the so-called Bali Nine.

Chan married his longtime girlfriend Febyanti Herewila in prison on Monday.

The executions of Sukumaran and Chan come despite the fact that both this week received a court date of May 12 to hear an outstanding legal challenge.

Lawyers for the men also say Indonesia’s Judicial Commission has yet to properly investigate claims of corruption during their original trial and sentencing. They say three of the men’s Indonesian lawyers had been summoned to attend the commission on May 7.

It’s a day their families and friends hoped would never come, but it’s also one that Indonesia, despite years of protest and legal appeals, has insisted had to happen.

The death penalty

Under Indonesian law, the death penalty is carried out by a 12-man firing squad, although only three guns are loaded with live ammunition.

Prisoners are given the choice of whether to stand or sit, and whether they want to wear a blindfold, hood or nothing. The shots — aimed at the heart — are fired from between 5 and 10 meters (16 to 33 feet), according to Amnesty International.

On Tuesday, the prisoners’ families were heard wailing as they boarded a boat for what’s expected to be their final goodbyes. Reporters at the port in Cilacap described harrowing scenes on Twitter.

“Myu’s sister Brintha collapsed in screams. Helen Chan was supported by 2 women. Truly heartbreaking. #Bali9,” wrote Nine News reporter Jayne Azzopardi.

Indonesia fighting ‘drugs crisis’

While the Bali Nine have garnered much international attention, their punishment is just part of a larger government effort to combat illegal drug trafficking.

Indonesian President Widodo has insisted that Indonesia will not be swayed by appeals for clemency because the country is dealing with a “drugs crisis.” He told CNN in January that clemency would not be extended to drug traffickers, leading to an appeal from Chan and Sukumaran that their cases hadn’t been properly considered.

Lawyers for the two men say they’ve undergone radical rehabilitation during their 10 years in Kerobokan prison, and now offer support and services to others.

A vigil was set to be held in Martin Place in Sydney on Tuesday night.

Foreigners executed

Images show individual crosses bearing the prisoners’ names and the date April 29, 2015.

In addition to the two Australians who were part of the Bali Nine, the other inmates who were executed were Nigerians Raheem Salami, Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise and Okwudil Oyatanze. Martin Anderson — who was initially identified as Ghanian — was actually Nigerian as well. Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte — who was said to be mentally ill — was also executed.

An official reason for why Veloso, the Filipina domestic worker, was granted a stay was not immediately provided.

Her lawyers claim she was the victim of human trafficking and wasn’t aware she was carrying drugs. On Tuesday, CNN Philippines reported that Veloso’s alleged recruiters, Maria Kristina Sergio and her partner Julius Lacanilao, surrendered themselves to authorities.

The report says Sergio denies all accusations in relation to Veloso’s case.

Frenchman Serge Atlaoui’s execution has been delayed while a court considers a legal challenge. The only Indonesian on the condemned list is Zainal Abidin.

Chan and Sukumaran were arrested in 2005 as part of the “Bali Nine,” a drug smuggling gang that intended to import 8 kilograms (17.6 pounds) of heroin from Bali to Australia. They failed.

 

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