Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Indonesia Notifies Convicted Drug Dealers Of Imminent Execution


In Indonesia, nine convicted drug dealers have received three days' notice of their execution on an island off the coast of Java. All but one of them are foreigners. They're from Nigeria, Australia, Brazil and the Philippines. A French national won a two-week reprieve over the weekend. Their imminent executions have led to diplomatic protests and charges of unfair trials. But they are planned to be carried out, by firing squad and with great ceremony, as part of a national campaign by Indonesia's president against drug abuse. Alice Budisatrijo is the BBC's Southeast Asia producer, and she joins us from Chilachap, Indonesia, which is near where the executions are set to take place. And first, Alice, tell us - why is President Joko Widodo so intent on carrying out these sentences?

ALICE BUDISATRIJO: Well, the president is determined to carry out the execution because he says that the country is in national emergency of drug abuse. He claims that there are about 30 people who die of drug abuse every day. And it doesn't seem to matter to him that the statistics that he based that number on has been called into question. And also, there's domestic politics. Joko Widodo was elected last year with popular support, but his approval ratings have plummeted in just six months in office. And even though Indonesia's death penalty has been widely criticized overseas, most Indonesians don't have a problem with the government executing drug smugglers and murderers, as the law currently allows. And if the government call off the executions, there will be serious political consequences here in Indonesia.

SIEGEL: In addition to criticism of the death penalty from the president of France and criticism from Australia, a U.N. special rapporteur says that the trials typically were unfair. Do you think that's a reasonable description of criminal justice in Indonesia?

BUDISATRIJO: There have been many criticisms about the judicial process. And certainly in this case, among the nine prisoners who are facing execution, two or three of them are actually claiming that they were asked to bribe the judges during their trials. Now, I don't think they will have time to prove or investigate those claims because the nine prisoners have been given the 72-hour notice for execution, and the attorney general has told us they will not delay the execution.

SIEGEL: Of all the countries represented by these convicts, Australia is not too far away, and I think pretty important to Indonesia. Are there likely to be any consequences to the arguments between the Australian government and the Indonesians about the executions of the two nationals from Australia?

BUDISATRIJO: Well, I think the damage in relations have already taken place. And Australia has been lobbying for Indonesia to spare their citizens' lives since the president rejected their clemency. And that's because these two men - Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran - even though they're known as the leader of the international drug ring known as the Bali Nine - all of them Australians - they are now seen to be reformed characters. Andrew Chan has got a theology degree while in prison. Myuran Sukumaran is now an accomplished artist, and they have been helping the other prisoners for most of the last 10 years. So Australia - the Australian government and the people really hope that Indonesia would spare their lives. And Australia has also repeatedly warned that if the two men end up being executed, there will be serious consequences.

SIEGEL: That's the BBC's Alice Budisatrijo. Alice, thank you very much for talking with us.

BUDISATRIJO: Thank you, Robert. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.