Anguished families make 'last visit' before Indonesia executions
CILACAP, Indonesia (UPDATED) — Relatives of two Australian drug smugglers on death row in Indonesia cried out in anguish as they arrived at a prison island Tuesday, in distressing scenes as they paid what could be their final visit to the condemned men ahead of their executions.
Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" heroin-trafficking gang, are among eight foreign drug convicts who are expected to face the firing squad imminently after authorities gave them formal notice of their executions.
The convicts, who also include nationals from Brazil, the Philippines, and Nigeria, have been gathered on the high-security prison island Nusakambangan, where Indonesia puts condemned prisoners to death.
Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has signalled his determination to push on with the executions despite mounting international condemnation.
Indonesian Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo told AFP that authorities will not announce a date before the executions.
Australian media has published photos of crosses that will be used for their coffins, inscribed with the date 29.04.2015, and the Australians' families have reportedly been asked to say their last goodbyes on Tuesday afternoon.
The families of Chan and Sukumaran, who have been visiting them frequently in recent days, set out early Tuesday to pay what could their final visit to the men, both aged in their early 30s.
But they were unable to control their emotion as they arrived at Cilacap, the town that serves as the gateway to Nusakambangan, with members of Sukumaran's family screaming and crying out "mercy" as they walked in a slow procession to the port.
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 married his Indonesian girlfriend in a jailhouse ceremony with family and friends on Nusakambangan on Monday, his final wish before he faces the firing squad.
The family of Filipina convict, Mary Jane Veloso also arrived in Cilacap en route to Nusakambangan to pay a final visit but raced past waiting reporters in a van.
As they got out of the vehicle, Filipino priest Father Harold Toledano gave them each a blessing before they headed to the island.
"The family was so silent. It's really very sad. We see a kind of deep pain," he told AFP.
Death row convicts in Indonesia can request spiritual counsellors in their final hours, but the Australian media said that Chan and Sukumaran's requests had been rejected, with Indonesian authorities deciding to given them companions of their choosing.
"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 mounted a vigorous campaign to save its citizens, who have been on death row for almost a decade, and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has said the executions should be halted until a corruption investigation into judges who presided over the case is complete.
However President Jokowi, who is a vocal supporter of the death penalty for drug traffickers, dismissed the request.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Monday asked Widodo to show mercy, but Prasetyo said the execution of Veloso will go ahead: "We will not change our mind".
In Australia, celebrities including Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush released a video Tuesday urging Prime Minister Tony Abbott to fly to Indonesia to help save the two men.
Protesters gathered outside the Indonesian embassy in Manila, where they have been holding regular candlelight vigils for Veloso, calling on Jokowi to change his mind.
"He (Jokowi) wants to portray himself as a strong leader but by executing an innocent woman, he will portray himself as an evil man," said Sol Pillas, secretary-general of the Filipino migrant workers' advocacy group Migrante. —Rappler.com