Eight drug smugglers executed in Indonesia

Eight drug-trafficking convicts from several countries were executed by an Indonesian firing squad shortly after midnight this morning, according to reports, but a Filipino who was on death row with them was unexpectedly spared at the last minute.

Australian death row prisoner Myuran Sukumaran's sister, Brintha, is distraught as she visits him. Picture: Getty

There was no immediate official confirmation that the eight men had been executed.

Earlier, Jakarta rejected last-ditch pleas from around the world for clemency to be granted to the drug traffickers from Nigeria, Australia, Brazil and Indonesia, ordering their mass execution to proceed within hours.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

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

He said the delay came in response to a request from Manila after a drug courier gave herself up to police in the Philippines yesterday. People holding a vigil outside the Indonesian embassy in Manila cheered and clapped on hearing the news.

Philippine president Benigno Aquino III had appealed to President Joko Widodo to spare the life of Veloso, in a meeting on the sidelines of an annual summit of south-east Asian leaders in Malaysia.

He suggested to Mr Widodo that keeping Veloso alive would enable her to testify about those involved in the drug syndicate.

Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao also appealed to Mr Widodo to spare Veloso’s life.

“I am begging and knocking at your kind heart that your excellency will grant executive clemency to her by sparing her life and saving her from execution,” Pacquiao said in a live interview from Los Angeles with Philippine network GMA News.

The proposed death penalties were condemned by the United Nations, and have strained ties between Australia and Indonesia in particular.

Hours before the expected executions, crowds gathered in cities across Australia to hold vigils for Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, waving placards and calling for Australia to respond strongly to its neighbour if the executions proceeded.

Security was tight at the prison on an island off the Central Java coast where the executions were to take place, and a dozen ambulances, some carrying white satin-covered coffins, were seen arriving.

Indonesian authorities had declined to specify a time for the executions, which were due to take place at a nearby clearing in a forest. But when a group of drug traffickers was executed earlier this year, the sentence was carried out at midnight.

Officials said the prisoners were to be given the choice to stand, kneel or sit before the firing squad, and to be blindfolded. Their hands and feet were to be tied.

Twelve marksmen were assigned to fire at the heart of each prisoner, but only three would have live ammunition. Authorities say this is so that the executioners remain unidentified.

Authorities on Monday granted Australian Chan’s final wish, which was to marry his Indonesian girlfriend at the prison.

But they rebuffed last-minute appeals from Australia to save the lives of Sukumaran and Chan, who were arrested in 2005 as the ringleaders of a plot to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told ABC television earlier: “Should these executions proceed in the manner that I anticipate, of course there will have to be consequences.”

Australia-Indonesia relations have been tested in recent years by disputes over people smuggling and spying. In late 2013 Indonesia recalled its envoy and froze military and intelligence cooperation over reports that Canberra had spied on top Indonesian officials, including the former president’s wife.

Indonesia has harsh punishments for drug crimes and resumed executions in 2013 after a five-year gap.

Six people have been executed so far this year. Mr Widodo’s steadfastness on the executions has strong public support at home.