Indonesia has executed two Australians who had been convicted of drug charges, in a sentence that was was carried out despite global pleas to spare the duo from a firing squad.
Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were among those executed early Wednesday, according to the Jakarta Post. A total of eight prisoners were killed in Wednesday’s execution, the Jakarta Post reported.
One Filipino woman received a last-minute reprieve, according to the newspaper.
“We’ve carried out the executions,” an attorney general’s office official told the newspaper, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Sukumaran and Chan were arrested in Bali a decade ago for recruiting seven others to smuggle heroin from Indonesia into Australia. The other members of the “Bali Nine” received prison terms, but Sukumaran and Chan were sentenced to death.
A group of inmates, including Sukumaran and Chan, were given 72-hour execution notices over the weekend, which intensified last-ditch efforts to win reprieves for the convicts. The Associated Press reported that coffins for the inmates arrived Tuesday, and relatives were allowed to visit.
“We want to send a strong message to drug smugglers that Indonesia is firm and serious in tackling the drug problem, and one of the consequences is execution if the court sentences them to death,” Indonesian President Joko Widodo told Al Jazeera last month.
The executions were condemned in Australia, with some politicians tweeting about the deaths.
There are few greater displays of abuse of State power and regressive thinking than the death penalty. #RIP
— Steven Ciobo (@steveciobo) April 28, 2015
Unbearably sad to hear of the execution of Andrew Chan, Myuran Sukumaran and 6 others. We must end the death penalty. RIP #IStandForMercy
— Andrew Giles MP (@andrewjgiles) April 28, 2015
RIP Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran – a tragic loss of human life on a very sad day
— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) April 28, 2015
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that a candlelight vigil was held across from the site of the executions, with prayers and music.
“Just being here is a statement that we care,” Owen Pomana, a New Zealander who said he was a friend of Chan’s, told the newspaper. “He’s my friend, he’s my brother.”
Sukumaran and Chan, the Morning Herald noted, spent their final hours trying to offer solace to loved ones.
“They were just amazing,” Sukumaran’s brother, Chinthu, told the newspaper. “They were strong and calm.”
Chan’s brother, Michael, also tweeted about the executions, the Guardian reported.
I have just lost a Courageous brother to a flawed Indonesian legal system. I miss you already RIP my Little Brother
— Michael chan (@Changa5378) April 28, 2015
Sukumaran had been spending his final days painting and produced one piece called “Self Portrait Beneath the Shadow.” Another work, which depicts Sukumaran with a gaping black hole in his chest, was called “Self Portrait. Time is Ticking.”
“This is an extremely sad day for the families and friends of the eight people executed and all those who stood in solidarity with Myuran and Andrew, and others on death row, calling for their lives to be spared,” Diana Sayed, a human rights lawyer and crisis campaigner for Amnesty International, said in a statement.
Widodo, the first Indonesian president not to come from the country’s political or military elite, took office last fall, and has vehemently pursued harsh sentences for drug smuggling, calling illegal drug use a “national emergency.” In January, the Indonesian government put six convicts to death, including five foreigners — more executions than the country ordered in the previous six years combined.
In an earlier interview with the Jakarta Globe, Widodo rebuffed foreigners’ calls for clemency.
“I will say this firmly: No one may intervene with the executions because it is our sovereign right to exercise our laws,” he said.
The push to move forward with the executions sparked an international outcry from diplomats, lawyers, rights groups and a smattering of celebrities. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for a moratorium on Indonesia’s executions and a move toward abolition. The governments of Australia, France and the Philippines — which don’t have a death penalty — threatened diplomatic consequences if the country goes through with the executions.
Efforts continued on behalf of other prisoners scheduled for execution who were convicted for drug smuggling but who are not among the “Bali Nine.” Lawyers for Rodrigo Gularte, a mentally ill Brazilian man, filed a last-ditch appeal Tuesday arguing he should be hospitalized, not executed.
And women’s rights groups demonstrated for the release of the Filipino prisoner, 30-year-old migrant worker Mary Jane Veloso, who said she was set up by a recruitment agency.
Veloso was spared from the death sentence Wednesday, the Jakarta Post reported.
“The execution of Mary Jane is postponed due to a request from the Philippines President regarding a perpetrator who is suspected of human trafficking has surrendered in the Philippines and Mary Jane is needed for her testimony,” Tony Spontana, spokesman for Indonesia’s attorney general, confirmed to News.com.au.
“Miracles do come true,” Veloso’s mother, Celia, told a Philippine radio station, according to AFP.She added that her daughter’s young sons were yelling: “Yes, yes mama will live.”
Filipino boxing star Manny Pacquiao had joined the calls for clemency for Veloso, and Australian actor Geoffrey Rush joined several other celebrities in making a video calling for Prime Minister Tony Abbott to fly to Indonesia and bring Chan and Sukumaran home.
On Tuesday, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said her government was still pushing for a reduced sentence for the two Australians.
“While they are still alive, there is still hope, and I will continue to advocate all throughout today,” she told the Associated Press.
But on Nusakambangan Island, where family members made their last visits with the nine convicts, hope was in short supply. Relatives sobbed as they pushed their way through a crowd of reporters, police and onlookers to the prison. A convoy of a dozen ambulances followed soon after. Nine of the vehicles contained a white coffin, one for each of the people to be executed.
Chan’s new wife, Indonesian pastor Febyanti Herewila, paid a final visit to the man she married just the night before. She and Chan met while he was in an Indonesian jail where she conducted outreach — marrying her was Chan’s final request, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. A small group of family and friends attended the ceremony, a subdued affair at the island’s maximum security prison.
The families of the nine convicts were given until Tuesday afternoon to say their final goodbyes, then sent off the island. Though officials declined to give an exact time for the execution, what would happen next was pretty clear.
Each convict was to be taken someplace out of public view — likely a wooded area of the island where the gunshots wouldn’t be heard — and tied to a pole. They would have the option of sitting or standing, and of whether to cover their eyes with a blindfold or hood.
The condemned would be given a few minutes with a spiritual adviser; then, the 12 members of the firing squad would raise their weapons. Nine of the guns would be loaded with blanks, with three holding live ammunition. On command, they would fire.
According to Cornell University’s Death Penalty Database, Indonesia is one of 53 countries, including the United States, to use firing squads as a legal form of execution.
“The executions were carried out at 12:30 a.m.,” said Suhendro Putro, funeral director with the Javanese Christian Church, according to the Jakarta Post.
Australia’s Courier-Mail noted that a lawyer who represented Chan and Sukumaran “tweeted a gut-wrenching expression of defeat less than an hour after their executions.”
I failed. I lost.
— Todung Mulya Lubis (@TodungLubis) April 28, 2015
I am sorry
— Todung Mulya Lubis (@TodungLubis) April 28, 2015
The newspaper itself published a special edition that depicted Widodo with blood on his hands.
— The Courier-Mail (@couriermail) April 28, 2015
During their last days together, their legal options seemingly exhausted, the convicts worked to make another kind of statement to the Indonesian government.
On the back of one of Sukumaran’s last paintings — a lurid red image of a human heart — they wrote their names and other messages, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The painting is inscribed “Satu hati satu rasa didalam cinta” — Indonesian for “One heart, one feeling in love.”
[This post has been updated multiple times.]