JAKARTA: Indonesia put to death five foreigners and one local woman convicted of drugs offences on Sunday, unleashing a diplomatic storm as Brazil and the Netherlands condemned the execution of their citizens.
The executions — the first under Indonesia’s new President Joko Widodo — were carried out by firing squad on foreigners hailing from Brazil, the Netherlands, Vietnam, Malawi and Nigeria.
Indonesia has tough anti-drugs laws and Widodo, who took office in October, has disappointed rights activists by voicing strong support for capital punishment despite his image as a reformist.
A spokesman for Brazilian President Dilma Roussef said she was “distressed and outraged” after Indonesia defied her repeated pleas and put to death Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira, who was convicted of smuggling cocaine into Indonesia in 2004.
“Using the death penalty, which is increasingly rejected by the international community, seriously affects relations between our countries,” the spokesman said in a statement.
Meanwhile Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said the Netherlands had temporarily recalled its ambassador to Indonesia over the execution of Dutchman Ang Kiem Soei, and described all six deaths as “terribly sad” in a statement.
“My heart goes out to their families, for whom this is marks a dramatic end to years of uncertainty,” Koenders said. “The Netherlands remains opposed to the death penalty.”
Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Prime Minister Mark Rutte had been in contact with the Indonesian president on the matter, he said, and the government had done “all in its power” to attempt to halt the execution.
All the prisoners, who had been sentenced to death between 2000 and 2011, were executed around the same time shortly after midnight, Tony Spontana, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office, told AFP.
Vietnamese woman Tran Thi Bich Hanh was executed in Boyolali district in central Java, while five others were put to death on Nusakambangan Island, home to a high-security prison, off the south coast of the archipelago’s main island of Java.
They included an Indonesian woman, Rani Andriani, along with 53-year-old Brazilian Moreira and 62-year-old Dutchman Ang.
A Nigerian, Daniel Enemuo, and Namaona Denis, from Malawi, were also executed.
They were all caught attempting to smuggle drugs apart from the Dutchman, who was sentenced to death for operating a huge factory producing ecstasy.
All of them had their appeals for clemency to the president — their last chance to avoid the firing squad — rejected last month.
Jakarta halted capital punishment in 2008 but resumed executions again in 2013. There were no executions in Indonesia last year.
Widodo, known as Jokowi, has taken a particularly hard line towards people on death row for narcotics offences, insisting they will not receive a presidential pardon as Indonesia is facing an “emergency” due to high levels of drug use.
His tough stance has sparked concern for other foreigners sentenced to death, particularly two Australians who were part of the “Bali Nine” group caught trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia in 2005.
One of the pair, Myuran Sukumaran, also had his clemency appeal rejected last month but authorities say he will be executed with the second Australian — his accomplice Andrew Chan — as they committed their crime together.
Chan is still waiting for the outcome of his clemency appeal.
Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s research director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, said Sunday’s executions marked “a seriously regressive move and a very sad day.
“The new administration has taken office on the back of promises to make human rights a priority, but the execution of six people flies in the face of these commitments.”
He called on the government to halt plans for future executions. Authorities previously said that 20 were scheduled for this year.
Before the executions, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini had sought to ramp up pressure on Jakarta, describing the death penalty as “a cruel and inhumane punishment, which fails to act as a deterrent and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity”.