Indonesian president stands firm on execution of Nigerians, others for drug smuggling

Indonesian President, Joko Widodo

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has defended his decision to reject clemency for the Nigerians and other foreigners on death row for drug smuggling, but said he does not rule out abolishing capital punishment in the future.

Indonesian authorities on Wednesday, March 4, 2015 moved Spanish born Nigerian, Raheem Agbaje-Salami, (42), and two Australians – Andrew Chan (31) and Myuran Sukumaran (38) – from Bali to the prison island of Nusakambangan, indicating they would soon be executed.

They are three of the 11 convicts including foreigners from Australia, France, Brazil, the Philippines and Ghana, who are expected to be executed soon.

Two other Nigerians, Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise (39) and Okwudili Oyatanze (40), are on the list.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Widodo defended his decision to not halt the planned executions, which have sparked diplomatic tensions with Nigeria and other countries involved.

“About 4.5 million people need to be rehabilitated because of the drugs. Please do not only see the traffickers but also the impact of the drugs trafficking,” he said.

“Please do visit the (drugs) rehabilitation centre when they are screaming due to the drugs addiction. People must see this from both side, not only from one side,” he added.

But Widodo said that the government would be open to abolishing the death penalty if the Indonesian people wanted change.

“The Constitution and existing laws still allow (the death penalty) but in the future if it is necessary to change it and the people really want it, why not?” he said in the interview broadcast on Saturday.

“I think we want to listen to what people want first. It’s still a long time to go through and I do not want to talk about the issue now,” he added.

President Goodluck Jonathan attempted a negotiation to stop the execution of the Nigerians during the week when he hosted the new Indonesian ambassador to Nigeria, Harry Purwanto, who had come to submit his letter of credence at the presidential villa.

According to a source who spoke anonymously because he is not authorised to speak on the matter: “The president met with the Indonesian delegation and was quite persuasive in making the case that a moratorium be placed on the execution of the Nigerians on death row.”

Brazil postponed accepting the credentials of Indonesia’s newly designated envoy in protest, while Australia called for a ‘reciprocation’ of the $1 billion 2004 tsunami aid package by sparing the lives of its citizens.

Although there are indications that the executions may be postponed to allow the ongoing legal appeals of some of the condemned men to run their course, it is almost certain that Jakarta will not back down.

And the men know this.

In a letter submitted through the authorities, Agbaje-Salami said goodbye to his Indonesian girlfriend, Angela Intan; asked her to be strong and have faith in God.

“I want to thank and say goodbye to my beloved sweetheart, Angela Intan, who has stood beside me through happiness and sadness,” he said.

“Thank you for everything, for the time we spent together. Knowing and loving you has been a gift and even though it was only for a short time it has had a deep meaning in my life.”

Agbaje-Salami was sentenced to death for trying to smuggle 5.3kg of heroin into Indonesia.