In Indonesia 10 death row prisoners profiled, including 4 Nigerians

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The Indonesian government had ordered the execution process of ten drug traffickers, from Nigeria, Australia, France, Brazil, the Philippines, and Indonesia last Thursday, April 23, 2015.

The offenders, who were arrested at different times, have been incarcerated in Indonesia jail for a few years and have unsuccessfully appealed their death penalty through separate lawyers.

Their last appeal, which seemed like a last option was presidential clemency, and it was denied. And despite heavy criticism from the international community, asking the government to waive their death penalty, the Indonesian authority did not give in.

The photos and profiles of the prisoners, with four of them Nigerians, were released online and published on New York Times portal on Friday, April 24.

Find the profiles below:

 

 

Martin Anderson, 50, Nigeria - Possession of Heroin

Martin Anderson was arrested in Jakarta in 2003 on a charge of possessing about 1.8 ounces of heroin and was accused of being part of a local drug ring. He had traveled to Indonesia on a fake Ghanaian passport and has been incorrectly identified as Ghanaian.

He was sentenced to death in 2004.

According to his lawyer, Kusmanto, who like many Indonesians uses one name, Mr. Anderson was shot in the leg during his arrest — a method the Indonesian police are sometimes known to use when apprehending a suspect — and remains bothered by the wound to this day.

He has been in poor spirits since being transferred to Nusakambangan Island for execution, Mr. Kusmanto said.

Mr. Anderson has filed for a judicial review of his conviction and death sentence with the Supreme Court, but his lawyer said he feared the court would not consider the appeal until after he is executed.

Such appeals can take six months to be heard, Mr. Kusmanto said. “Obviously we hope it’s sooner.”

 

Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise, 47, Nigeria - Smuggling Heroin

Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise’s story, as his wife tells it, is similar to those of other Nigerians on Indonesia’s death row for drug trafficking. Unemployed in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, he was lured to Pakistan by fellow Nigerians on the promise of a job with good wages.

But once in Pakistan, instead of a job, he got an offer to swallow some capsules – filled with goat horn powder, his wife, Fatimah Farwin, says he was told – and fly to Indonesia.

“They said they didn’t want to pay tax on it,” Ms. Fatimah said. “When he arrived at the airport in Jakarta, the police saw him – I don’t know how – they caught him and X-rayed him, and they found it and it was drugs.”

Arrested in 2001, Mr. Nwolise was convicted the following year of bringing 2.6 pounds of heroin into the country, and was sentenced to death.

During his trial, according to Ms. Fatimah, Mr. Nwolise had no translator, and his Indonesian lawyer could barely communicate with him. She said that a judge, through an intermediary, offered to sentence him to prison rather than death if he paid a bribe of 200 million rupiah, worth about $22,000 at the time.

“But he was just a poor courier. He didn’t have any money,” Ms. Fatimah said.

Ms. Fatimah, who is Indonesian, met Mr. Nwolise in prison in 2007, when she was accompanying a friend who was visiting another inmate. The two married later that year; they have since had two children, now 5 and 3, but she has not brought them to see him since they were infants. She has told them that their father is working in an office in another country.

In January, the Indonesian police accused Mr. Nwolise of running a drug syndicate from prison. No charges were brought, but Ms. Fatimah, who says emphatically that her husband is innocent of the accusation, believes it resulted in his being placed in the group of inmates now facing imminent execution.

“Some woman on the outside blamed him,” Ms. Fatimah said, referring to a police informant, “but when they came to his cell, they never found anything – never, never, never. He never had a trial and next thing, they wanted to execute him.”

 

Jamiu Owolabi Abashin, 50, Nigeria - Smuggling Heroin

Jamiu Owolabi Abashin was living on the streets of Bangkok in 1998 when a fellow African living there took pity on him and brought him home. Shortly thereafter, according to Mr. Abashin, his new friend asked whether he wanted a quick-paying job, in which he would get $400 for bringing a package of clothing to the friend’s wife in Surabaya, Indonesia, where she sold used shirts and pants.

Mr. Abashin readily agreed, but soon wished he hadn’t: The package contained nearly 12 pounds of heroin, and he was arrested after landing at Surabaya’s airport. Mr. Abashin, who was traveling on a false Spanish passport, contended he was duped.

He was convicted in 1999 and sentenced to life in prison, which was reduced to 20 years on appeal. State prosecutors challenged the sentence reduction before the Indonesian Supreme Court, which in 2006 sentenced Mr. Abashin to death.

In a request for presidential clemency in 2008, he admitted knowingly smuggling the drugs. The request was denied in January.

The Indonesian government refers to him as Raheem Agbaje Salami, the name on the fake Spanish passport he was using when he was arrested.

Ursa Supit, an Indonesian legal activist who is advocating on Mr. Abashin’s behalf, says that because he had no money, he was assigned a state lawyer for his trial and had no legal counsel when he appealed to the Supreme Court.

Mr. Abashin, who now has a lawyer, is challenging Mr. Joko’s rejection of his clemency request.

“He has been inside now for 17 years, and he has never broken a rule inside,” Ms. Supit said. “And now they are going to execute him. He’s never had money for lawyers. It’s not fair.”

 

Okwudili Oyatanze, 41, Nigeria - Smuggling heroin

A YouTube clip (see below) shows what seems to be a typical Sunday religious service at a small church. A young African man, accompanied by an Asian guitarist, sings a heartfelt gospel song as the audience sings along. But the camera does not show the security guards, iron bars and barbed wire fences that would have indicated this was no ordinary place. The singer, Okwudili Oyatanze, was giving his regular performance at a penitentiary outside the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

Known in Indonesia’s penal system as “The Death Row Gospel Singer,” Mr. Oyatanze, 41, was arrested in 2001 while trying to smuggle 5.5 pounds of heroin through Jakarta’s international airport, in his stomach, after arriving on a flight from Pakistan. He was convicted the following year and sentenced to death.

Mr. Oyatanze has made the most of his incarceration, writing more than 70 songs and recording multiple albums behind bars. He has performed with prison guards as well as fellow inmates.

In the video, shot in 2008, Mr. Oyatanze sang his song “God You Know,” which was also the name of an album he released that year.

“He has turned his life around in jail,” said the Rev. Charles Burrows, a Catholic priest from Ireland who now lives in Indonesia and is offering religious counseling to Mr. Oyatanze as he awaits his execution.

Raised in outheastern Nigeria, Mr. Oyatanze started a garment business in 1999, traveling to Indonesia to buy clothing and resell it in Nigeria. The business collapsed, and Mr. Oyatanze, heavily in debt, traveled to Pakistan to try to revive it, at the suggestion of a fellow Nigerian living there.

The plan involved swallowing capsules of heroin before boarding a flight to Jakarta. “There was a chance to earn some easy money, so he became a courier,” Mr. Burrows said.

 

Mary Jane Veloso, 30, Philippines - Smuggling Heroin

Mary Jane Veloso left school after seventh grade and was married by the time she was 16. A few years later, her husband left her with two children and no financial support.

“We were so poor,” Ms. Veloso’s older sister, Marites Laurente, recalled of their time growing up. “We were just picking up bottles and plastic in the road to sell to make money.”

In April 2010, according to Ms. Veloso’s family, a labor recruiter who lived nearby told her she could find work as a maid in Malaysia, a well paying job with no education required. Ms. Veloso put a few garments into the only luggage her family had – a child’s backpack – and boarded a flight to the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, with the recruiter.

There, according to her father and sister, Ms. Veloso was told that the original job had been canceled, but that there was a similar job available in Indonesia. The recruiter took her out shopping for clothes and bought her a new suitcase.

“When she lifted the bag, it was heavy,” Ms. Laurente said. “My sister said she had a bad feeling about it, but when she opened the bag it was empty.”

The recruiter flew back to the Philippines, the family said, and Ms. Veloso boarded a flight for the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta, where she expected her new employer to meet her at the airport. Instead, she was met by Indonesian officials, who discovered more than five pounds of heroin hidden inside the lining of the suitcase.

Prosecutors claim that Ms. Veloso was a willing courier, according to local media reports.

Ms. Veloso was tried, convicted and sentenced to death. Ms. Laurente said her sister, who spoke no Indonesian and very little English, was unable to understand what was taking place during the trial, being assisted by a young translator whose English was also very limited.

The Philippine government has flown Ms. Veloso’s family members to Jakarta twice to visit her in prison.

“The guards and the other people there in the prison are so kind,” Ms. Laurente said. “They love my sister so much. They are trying to make her happy. They are taking good care of her. She is fat now like me.”

Ms. Veloso’s relatives live in a cluster of wooden houses along a dirt path off the main road near the town of Cabanatuan, about 60 miles north of Manila. Her sons, now 6 and 12, are cared for by their grandparents.

“They are always asking, when is momma coming back?” Ms. Laurente said. “We tell him that she will come home in a year. We can’t tell them the truth.”

 

Serge Atlaoui, 51, France - Running A Narcotics Factory

Serge Atlaoui was arrested in 2005 during a police raid on a factory outside Jakarta that was producing the drug ecstasy. According to Mr. Atlaoui, a welder by trade, he had moved to Indonesia from the Netherlands with the understanding that he would be working on machinery in an acrylics factory.

"He was never informed of the actual use of the machines, otherwise, as a married man and father of three children at the time, he wasn't going to take the risk of going to Indonesia," said his lawyer, Richard Sédillot.

Mr. Atlaoui was sentenced to death in 2007.

His case has drawn considerable attention in France, where news outlets have said that he would be the first Frenchman subjected to capital punishment since France abolished it in 1981.

France has been pressing Indonesia to spare him; on Thursday, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius wrote in a letter to his Indonesian counterpart that “serious dysfunction” in the country’s legal system had denied Mr. Atlaoui his rights. On Saturday, Mr. Atlaoui got an unexpected reprieve pending another review of his case in a state court.

Mr. Atlaoui’s wife, Sabine, said that her husband had been mischaracterized in court as a leader of the drug ring. She said he had noticed soon after starting the job that there was suspicious activity at the factory, but that he had never taken part in manufacturing drugs. He tried to get out of the situation as soon as he could, but he was arrested before he could do so, she said.

"Overnight, we found ourselves in a nightmare," she said. "I told myself, this can't be reality, it isn't possible for this kind of thing to happen."

The couple married in 2007, after Mr. Atlaoui had been imprisoned but before he had been sentenced to death. They have since had one child, who is now 3 years old; they have three other children from previous marriages, all now in their 20s.

"When we are together, we give each other a lot of energy, strength and courage," Mrs. Atlaoui said. "We give hope to each other, even if the situation is critical.”

She said she had never doubted her husband's innocence. "He is an honest, respectful and very generous man," she said.

 

Zainal Abidin, 50, Indonesia - Marijuana Possession With Intent To Distribute

Zainal Abidin was at his modest home in Palembang, in South Sumatra Province, in December 2000 when two friends knocked on his door asking for a place to stay for the night. They were carrying several large burlap sacks that Mr. Zainal, according to his lawyer, believed to contain rice.

Hours later, after the police raided his home in the middle of the night, his lawyer said, he found out that the sacks were stuffed with 129 pounds of marijuana.

The police had arrested one of the visitors, Aldo bin Hasan Umar, who had left the house after midnight and tried to sell a small quantity of the marijuana on the streets.

Mr. Umar told the police that Mr. Zainal was the ringleader of a plan to sell the marijuana. In 2001, Mr. Zainal was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Later that year, the South Sumatra High Court overturned the sentence and gave him the death penalty.

During his trial, his lawyers argued that Mr. Zainal, a laborer at a local furniture factory, could not afford to buy such a large quantity of marijuana, but the judges rejected the claims that Mr. Zainal was not involved.

Mr. Umar was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and a third man convicted in connection with the case was given four years. Both were eventually granted parole and today are free, while Mr. Zainal faces the firing squad.

“He was fingered for being the owner of the house where the sacks were found, but it was his friends who brought them there,” said Ade Yuliawan, Mr. Zainal’s current lawyer. “His punishment should not have been more severe than what the actual drug dealers received.”

Mr. Ade also said the legal process against his client was flawed because the Supreme Court did not respond to Mr. Zainal’s 2005 request for a judicial review of his conviction and death sentence until this past January, 10 years after he filed it. Mr. Ade said the court told him that the filing did not follow proper procedures.

 

Rodrigo Gularte, 42, Brazil - Smuggling Cocaine

Rodrigo Gularte, an avid surfer from Brazil, was arrested in 2004 trying to smuggle 13 pounds of cocaine into Indonesia, hidden in several surfboards. He was tried in a courtroom outside Jakarta and sentenced to death in 2005.

His lawyers say he never should have been in a courtroom at all. Doctors in both Indonesia and Brazil have certified that he suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Indonesia’s criminal code forbids the prosecution of people with mental illness, requiring instead that they be sent to a mental health center.

Mr. Gularte’s current attorneys, who have represented him only since March, say they have no idea who their client’s previous lawyer was or whether his mental illness was ever brought up at trial.

“He was diagnosed as schizophrenic at the age of 16,” said Ricky Gunawan, who is leading Mr. Gularte’s defense team. “From what we know, his lawyer never appeared at his trial hearing, and he was given the death penalty.”

Mr. Gularte’s lawyers say his drug abuse as a younger man was a mask for his deeper problems. They and Mr. Gularte’s family have released Brazilian medical records dating back more than 20 years, as well as evaluations by Indonesian doctors after his 2004 arrest, supporting their contention that he is mentally ill.

But the office of Indonesia’s attorney general, which recently sought a second opinion from police psychiatrists, says he is mentally fit. Prosecutors, however, have neither released that new psychiatric evaluation nor shared it with Mr. Gularte’s legal team.

A Brazilian government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly, said Mr. Gularte does not understand the gravity of his situation.

“He does not think he’s going to die,” the official said, adding that “on many occasions he stated that he refuses to leave the prison, something that can probably be attributed to his paranoia.”

In a meeting with psychiatrists in March, according to Brazilian news reports, Mr. Gularte spoke of ghosts and mentioned a fear of electromagnetic waves from satellites watching him from above.

Mr. Gularte’s cousin Angelita Muxfeldt, who has been visiting him twice a week in prison, called the ordeal “emotionally difficult.”

 

Andrew Chan, 31, Australia - Smuggling Heroin

Andrew Chan’s older brother, Michael, believes his sibling’s wrong turns may have begun when Michael left home at 18, leaving Andrew without a role model. Their parents, striving Chinese immigrants, worked long hours seven days a week in the family’s Chinese restaurant.

Andrew began to get into mischief at about 13 or 14, Michael said, and dropped out of high school at 16.

“He drifted and started to experiment with drugs, and he found himself in that culture that led him to offend,” said Michael O’Connell, a lawyer on Andrew’s defense team.

In 2005, Mr. Chan and eight other Australians were arrested on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, some of them at an airport with heroin strapped to their bodies. An Indonesian court found Mr. Chan and Myuran Sukumaran to have been the ringleaders in a plan to smuggle the drugs out of the country.

He does not deny his crime.

“The only thing I can do is apologize,” he said in a 2006 television interview. “It makes me want to become a better person today. When you are young, you think you are invincible.”

He and his supporters say he has long since reformed. He converted to Christianity while in prison and became a counselor to other inmates. This year, he was ordained as a minister.

“Being incarcerated makes you take a long, hard look at yourself,” said Christie Buckingham, an Australian pastor who helped supervise Mr. Chan’s religious training.

“Both boys have done that,” she said of Mr. Chan and Mr. Sukumaran. “They needed role models when their parents were not present.”

“Every human being has a desire to belong,” she said. “Andrew went in the wrong direction. Anyone can do that.”

Michael Chan says he has no doubt Andrew thinks about that decision every day.

“It is what it is,” he said. “But I believe he is sorry. He knows it has not just jeopardized his life, but had an impact on everyone.”

 

Myuran Sukumaran, 34, Australia - Smuggling Heroin

Myuran Sukumaran was arrested on his 24th birthday on the Indonesian island of Bali, where he and a fellow Australian, Andrew Chan, were found to have been the ringleaders in a plot to smuggle several pounds of heroin out of the country.

When he looks back on that time now, he thinks “how stupid I was back then,” he said in a recent television interview.

The quick payoff was the lure. “I was hoping to buy a car,” he said. “I was hoping to start a business.”

In Kerobakan prison, Mr. Sukumaran has said in interviews, he found a sense of purpose that he lacked before. He developed an interest in painting, and he contacted the Australian painter Ben Quilty, who soon became a friend and mentor.

Mr. Quilty considers the convict a gifted artist.

“Because Myuran has been incarcerated and on death row, there’s been a real need for him to be introspective, to turn the mirror on himself metaphorically and physically,” Mr. Quilty said.

Mr. Quilty and other supporters of Mr. Sukumaran, who has become a cause célèbre in Australia, say he helped create an art studio in the prison and organize courses for inmates in art and other subjects.

“Hundreds of inmates have benefited from his work,” said Tina Bailey, a pastor with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, based in Bali. “He has the respect of the guards, the inmates and the prison authorities for all the work he has done.”

His younger brother, Chinthu Sukumaran, said in an interview that Myuran “was never really a bad person.”

“He wanted to be successful,” he said. “He was childish and selfish, but it was only that. Nothing more.”

 

 

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