Military strongman and former presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto urged Indonesian President Joko Widodo to indefinitely delay the executions of 10 drug felons, including Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, days before they were shot.Fadli Zon, a senior official from Mr Prabowo’s Gerindra party, said he delivered a letter to Mr Joko one to two weeks before the executions.
“Mr Prabowo and we in Gerindra hoped that at least there would be second thoughts. This is about someone’s life,” Mr Fadli told Fairfax Media.
He said the prisoners had already served long sentences and the requests for clemency had come from friendly countries.
“The case would be different if they were not friendly countries,” Mr Fadli, one of the deputy speakers in the House of Representatives, said.
Australia, France, Brazil and the Philippines had all fiercely lobbied the government to spare the lives of their citizens on death row.
Mr Fadli said Gerindra supported the government’s desire to deter drug smuggling and they were not saying that law enforcement should be ignored.
“However at the same time we have our nationals on death row abroad and we try to save their lives.”
Earlier this year, Mr Joko vowed to do his utmost to protect Indonesian citizens on death row on drug and murder charges.
Migrant Care says there are at least 290 Indonesian migrant workers facing execution in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, China and Qatar, 59 of whom have already been sentenced to death.
The human rights group says Indonesia will find it difficult to beg for mercy for its nationals overseas when it continues to hold executions on home soil.
The country was dismayed when two Indonesian domestic workers were beheaded in Saudi Arabia last month.
Mr Fadli said he did not know why Mr Joko had proceeded with the execution of eight drug felons.
(Frenchman Serge Atlaoui and Filipina maid Mary Jane Veloso were given last minute reprieves because they had ongoing legal cases.)
“Although we do support the government wanting to create a deterrent effect, we think the government should have studied the cases individually,” Mr Fadli said.
He pointed to the case of Veloso, who maintains she had no idea heroin was in the lining of her suitcase and was a victim of human traffickers.
“It’s worth further exploring her case completely until all legal avenues are exhausted.”
Mr Fadli said Gerindra had met ambassadors from France and Australia and other parties, but insisted the plea for a reprieve was the party’s own decision.
In March, former president Megawati Sukarnoputri reportedly told Mr Joko not to grant clemency to those on death row, blaming drugs for the spread of HIV in Indonesia.
Ms Megawati is the patron of Mr Joko and the leader of his party, the Indonesian Party of Struggle (PDI-P).
At a speech on International Women’s Day, Ms Megawati said drug use in Indonesia had entered a critical state and was the trigger for the spread of HIV.
“I therefore told Jokowi that those who sold drugs and who have been sentenced to death should not got their clemency pleas granted,” she was quoted as saying on Indonesian news website Kompas.
In March, Mr Prabowo, a former army general, said the death penalty was a valid punishment for drug kingpins but the approach to executions should be “flexible”.
He also said he understood why Australia was doing so much to get Chan and Sukumaran off death row.
“If we keep looking for something negative we will see it as pressure, but if we look at it as a government’s effort to protect its citizens I believe it is the country performing its duty,” he told the Indonesian news site tribunnews.com at the time.
“We too try to defend our citizens, we also have many citizens on death row.”