Indonesia – Update on Mary Jane Veloso, Filipina Woman Who Was Temporarily Spared Execution in Indonesia on Drug Charges, But Remains in Prison with Uncertain Future
Date: November 21, 2016
Indonesia – Update on Mary Jane Veloso, Filipina Woman Who Was Temporarily Spared Execution in Indonesia on Drug Charges, But Remains in Prison with an Uncertain Future – Global Advocacy Has Tried to Save Her
Mary Jane Veloso was sentenced to death in Indonesia for drugs trafficking. Photograph: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
(Jakarta claims President Rodrigo Duterte sanctioned execution of Filipina, who supporters say was duped into smuggling heroin) – Sept. 12, 2016
(President of Indonesia: “I have explained to [Duterte] about Mary Jane’s situation and I told him that Mary Jane [has been found guilty] for carrying 2.6 kilograms of heroin. I also told him about the delay in the execution during the meeting,”) Widodo said. http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/09/12/1623021/report-duterte-gave-go-signal-execute-mary-jane-veloso – Sept. 12, 2016
By Oliver Holmes in Manila
28 April 2016 – A woman who was temporarily spared death by firing squad last year remains on death row in Indonesia with her life precariously wagered on and slow-moving
Mary Jane Veloso won sympathy in her home country of the Philippines, as well as within Indonesia, after she said she was duped into smuggling drugs. And in a shock turnaround, Indonesian president Joko Widodo – known as Jokowi – delayed her killing with a temporary reprieve just hours before she was due to be executed in April 2015.
Indonesia shot dead eight others that night, including two Australians, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who fought a years-long campaign for clemency and were part of the Bali Nine heroin-smuggling ring. Four Nigerians, a Brazilian and an Indonesian were also killed.
Sparing the domestic worker and mother-of-two was unexpected and several Filipino newspapers wrongly reported on their front pages the next day that she had been killed. The Philippine Daily Inquirer ran the headline: “Death came before Dawn.”
Some Philippine newspapers missed the last-minute reprieve for Mary-Jane Veloso.
But in the year that has passed, the outburst of joy and relief has given way to a lengthy human trafficking trial in the Philippines and no guarantees that Veloso will be taken off death row even if she can prove she was tricked.
Migrante International, a group that promotes the rights of overseas Filipino workers, says Veloso’s life depends of the speedy trial and conviction of her accused traffickers, Maria Kristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao.
But the group complains that the defence has employed delaying tactics by filing motion after motion to keep the case in the early stages of legal proceedings.
“Mary Jane is still facing the threat of execution,” Migrante International vice-chair Rina Anastacio told the Guardian. “Unfortunately the trial is going very slowly.”
Mary-Jane Veloso pictured in Wirogunan prison, Yogyakarta, this week, taking part in a celebration of women’s rights during Kartini day. Photograph: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
Hours before Veloso was due to be killed last year, Sergio handed herself in to police in Manila, and the Philippines president, Benigno Aquino, made an appeal to his Indonesian counterpart on the basis that Veloso would be needed as a witness in the case against her alleged recruiter.
Key to the last-minute reprieve was that the Philippines invoked a regional treaty (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations mutual legal assistance treaty, or Asean MLAT) signed to fight transnational crimes in south-east Asia, which obliges Indonesia to help provide Veloso as a witness to the human trafficking court case.
Filipino officials have travelled to Indonesia to discuss the case that they hope can save her life.
Activists fear that Veloso, who has already been convicted in an Indonesian court, could yet be executed if the trial is overly delayed, as she is being kept alive only to give testimony. Her supporters want the Indonesian government to allow Veloso to fly home so she can testify in person in court.
They hope a swift conviction in the Philippines will show that Veloso was a pawn and might persuade Indonesia to spare her life.
The plan is far from certain. Indonesian officials suggest executions could restart again this year after a short hiatus, and the attorney general said in January the country was “ready” to execute Veloso.
Attorney general Prasetyo told Rappler: “We will look at the verdict, perhaps the verdict can be new evidence to appeal for clemency from the president. But surely Mary Jane will not be free from punishment. The fact is that she smuggled drugs to Indonesia.”
Veloso’s lawyer Edre Olalia lamented the slow pace of the human trafficking case. “After one year, we have unfortunately only presented her sister as prosecution witness so far. This week, we are calling her mother to the witness stand,” he said.
Olalia said Veloso was given a reprieve following what he described as bold legal tactics and an overwhelming local and international campaign – “and her peculiar circumstance of being a credible victim of human trafficking plus the human side of her being a young, poor mother of little boys forced by poverty to work abroad”.
Veloso, who fled Dubai after an attempted rape and moved to Indonesia via Malaysia to find work, says she was tricked by a trafficking gang to smuggle 2.6kg (5.7lb) of heroin six years ago. The drugs were found in the lining of her suitcase at Yogyakarta airport.
Olalia joined Veloso’s parents and children during a prison visit in January to celebrate her 31st birthday. He said: “Her family communicates with her by phone from time to time.”
Yohanes Sulaiman, a lecturer and political analyst at Indonesia’s Universitas Jenderal Achmad Yan, said Veloso’s story resonated with Indonesians who, like Filipinos, have a large emigrant population, some of whom are exploited. “Lots of people here in Indonesia were against her execution because her story was so close to home … it’s not unlike Indonesians in the Middle East.”
With the potential for public anger following her still-planned execution, Sulaiman said: “The Indonesian government had to be really sure that Mary Jane is what they consider as a big dealer. Not just a mule.”
He suggested that if a new date was set for her death by firing squad, there might be “uproar again”, but added: “The wheels of justice grind very slowly here in Indonesia, so people tend to get distracted. It is hard to maintain pressure over Mary Jane.”
Indonesia has some of the toughest anti-drugs laws in the world and the president says the nation is facing a “drug emergency”, calling for a stronger fight, including rejecting clemency.
Since Widodo took office, 14 drug convicts have been executed. Most of them were foreigners. Close to 90 convicted drug traffickers are currently on death row in Indonesia.