Indonesia executes drug convicts, sparks anger from Australia, Brazil

The leaders of Australia and Brazil had made personal appeals for clemency for their citizens among the group.

An Islamic cleric (L) prays with Iwan Setiawan (R), brother of executed Indonesian drug convict Zainal Abidin following his burial at a cemetery in Cilacap on 29 April, 2015. Eight drug convicts including two Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were executed by firing squad on 29 April on the high-security prison island of Nusakambangan in central Indonesia, but a Filipina was spared at the 11th hour. Picture: AFP.

CILACAP, INDONESIA - An Indonesian firing squad executed eight convicted drug-traffickers from several countries on Wednesday, prompting Australia to recall its envoy to Jakarta and bringing an angry reaction from Brazil.

The leaders of Australia and Brazil had made personal appeals for clemency for their citizens among the group, raising the stakes for Indonesia's new president, Joko Widodo.

Australia has deep commercial and political ties with its big neighbour, while Brazil has a $5 billion trade surplus with Southeast Asia's biggest economy. Brazil is also at risk of losing a major military export deal to Indonesia over the executions row.

Both countries oppose capital punishment and have railed against Widodo's move to step up the pace of executions, after a five-year moratorium, since coming to office last July.

"We respect Indonesia's sovereignty but we do deplore what's been done and this cannot be simply business as usual," Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters in Canberra.

He said ambassador Paul Gibson would return to Australia by the end of the week.

"I want to stress that this is a very important relationship between Australia and Indonesia but it has suffered as a result of what's been done over the last few hours."

Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were executed by firing squad along with four Nigerians, a Brazilian and an Indonesian shortly after midnight on Wednesday.

Charlie Burrows, religious counsellor to the Brazilian convict who was with the prisoners before the execution said all eight had refused blindfolds before they were shot.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Australia had yet to receive confirmation of the executions from Indonesia. Despite the lack of formal notification, media showed pictures of ambulances carrying the wooden coffins of the dead for the journey back to the Javanese port of Cilacap.

Recalling an ambassador is a step rarely taken by Australia, and never previously taken over a prisoner execution. Still, Abbott cautioned against a trade or tourism boycott, as the hashtag #boycottIndonesia trended on twitter.


The Brazilian government said in a statement it was shocked by the news, which marked the second execution of a Brazilian in Indonesia in three months despite President Dilma Rousseff's personal humanitarian appeals.

Brazil's foreign ministry said it was evaluating ties with Indonesia before deciding what action to take. It recalled its former ambassador in Jakarata after the first execution and said Wednesday it had no plans to replace him.

"Given the lack of a satisfactory reply to our appeals, this has to be evaluated to decide what attitude we will adopt towards Indonesia from now on," Brazil's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergio Franca Danese told reporters.

Indonesia said earlier it was reviewing its procurement of a squadron of 16 Brazil-made Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano aircraft and an order for multiple rocket launch systems after Brazil refused to allow Indonesia's new ambassador to take part in a credentials ceremony.

The United Nations described the executions as "extremely regrettable, extremely sad" and reiterated its appeal for Indonesia to reinstate its moratorium on the death penalty.

"Indonesia appeals for clemency when its own nationals face execution in other countries, so it is incomprehensible why it absolutely refuses to grant clemency for lesser crimes on its own territory," said Rupert Colville, UN human rights spokesman in Geneva.

The families of Australians Chan and Sukumaran released a statement early on Wednesday that said they were grateful for the support they had received.

"Today we lost Myuran and Andrew," the statement said.

"In the ten years since they were arrested, they did all they could to make amends, helping many others."

Jakarta rejected last-ditch pleas from around the world for clemency to be granted to the eight drug traffickers, although a Filipina on death row with them was unexpectedly spared.

A spokesman for the Attorney General's Office said it had delayed the execution of Mary Jane Veloso, a housemaid and mother of two who was arrested in 2010 after she arrived in Indonesia with 2.6 kg of heroin hidden in her suitcase.

He said the delay was in response to a request from Manila after an employment recruiter, whom Veloso had accused of planting the drugs in her luggage, gave herself up to police in the Philippines on Tuesday.

Supporters holding a vigil for Veloso outside the Indonesian embassy in Manila cheered and clapped on hearing the news.

Rights group Amnesty International said the executions were "utterly reprehensible" and showed disregard for due process.

In Australia and around the world, supporters of those executed expressed sadness, shock and anger on social media.

"Ham-fisted policy from a medieval regime," Twitter user Darren Reid said. "You will never get a travel cent from me."