Ban Ki-moon: “in the 21st century there is no place” for the death penalty

Filipino and Indonesian Christians celebrate Mary Jane’s reprieve

(AsiaNews) – The Philippines celebrated with street parties and prayer vigils the Indonesian government decision to spare the life of Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso. The 30 year old mother of two had been sentenced to death – although presumed innocent – for international drug trafficking, but in a “last minute” decision Jakarta stayed the Executioner. Currently her death by firing squad has been stayed, unlike eight other convicts who were executed as planned.

The Indonesian government has granted the woman time to allow for the testimony of the person believed to have recruited her – without her knowledge – to transport heroin by hiding it in her luggage. A few hours before the scheduled execution 30 year-old Filipino, Maria Kristina Sergio – the name of the woman currently in jail – voluntarily handed herself in to the police. She is now located in Manila, under the custody and subjected to further investigations.

Meanwhile, new details have emerged about the shootings that took place yesterday, in the early hours of the night. The eight convicted faced the gallows singing in unison “Amazing Grace”; they refused to be blindfolded and sang until the firing squad opened fire.

Outside, on the waters surrounding the town of Cilacap, starting point for departures to the prison island of Nusakambangan, relatives, activists, religious leaders promoted a torchlight procession, also singing “Amazing Grace” in solidarity with the prisoners.

Those present included Indonesian Christians who held a prayer vigil, to accompany the eight prisoners on their final journey. They also thanked the Lord for having stopped the hands of the Executioner, saving the life of Mary Jane. A fact established by all as “a miracle”.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also spoke of yesterday’s executions, expressing “deep regret”. Despite international diplomatic pressure and appeals of the governments involved – of the eight executed, seven were foreigners – Jakarta has given the green light to the Executioner, saving (for now) only the life of Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso. In an official statement, Ban Ki-moon said that “there is no place in the 21st century” for the death penalty and made an urgent appeal to Indonesia to spare the other prisoners on death row.

In response, Jakarta defended its line of zero tolerance against drug trafficking, and recalls that the shootings are part of this policy. The Attorney General of Jakarta in January Prasetyo said that “executions are not a pleasant thing. No one enjoys them,” adding that they were necessary to “save the nation from the dangers of drugs.”

Two Australians were among those executed yesterday morning – Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran – and a Brazilian citizen, Rodrigo Gularte who was suffering from serious mental problems.

The government in Canberra, one of the closest allies of Indonesia, has recalled its ambassador in protest. Prime Minister Tony Abbot has called the treatment of the two Australians “cruel and unnecessary”, speaking of “dark moment” in relations between the two States. “We respect the sovereignty of Indonesia – he added – but we deplore this episode, which cannot be considered a fact like many others.”

Brasilia has expressed “deep regret” and is threatening actions in response to the execution of the second Brazilian citizen in Indonesia in less than three months.


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