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What, if Anything, Have Other Countries Done to Save Citizens from Execution in Indonesia?

Other foreign prisoners slated for execution with Chan and Sukumaran haven't stirred the same passion in their home countries, where reactions range from outrage to disinterest.
March 4, 2015, 6:30am
Image by Ben Thomson

Unless there is some eleventh-hour reprieve, execution by firing squad is the fate of the prisoners on Nusakambangan Island, including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. The political and legal back and forth as to whether or not the executions will be carried out has captivated Australia, and many men and women, both in government and out, have taken up the fight for clemency.

The other foreign prisoners slated for execution have not stirred the same level of passion in their home countries, and the reactions of their respective nations' government, public, and media run the gamut from outrage to disinterest.

Raheem Agbaje Salami, Nigeria
Raheem Agbaje Salami, mistaken initially as Spanish, is a Nigerian who was sentenced to life in prison in 1999 by the Surabaya District Court for importing 5.3kg of heroin through the local airport. In 2006 his sentence was upgraded to death.

The attitude of the Nigerian government toward the execution appears more resigned when compared to Australia's. Nigerians have already been executed and, even if Raheem were to be granted clemency, there are still more on Indonesia's death row.


A Nigerian citizen, Daniels Enemuo, was amongst the foreign prisoners most recently executed by Indonesia on January 18. Soon after, the Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aminu Wali, summoned the Indonesian ambassador to register his nation's protest over the execution.

While it's true the Nigerian Federal government and National Assembly have appealed for clemency for the twelve Nigerians remaining on death row, including Raheem, there is a sentiment in some levels of the Nigerian politics that the situation is hopeless and that the prisoners are to blame.

President of the Senate, David Mark, is reported as having said there is little or nothing the government can do because the convicts' actions were violations of Indonesian law. "In the Sixth Senate we took up this matter and we sent a delegation to Indonesia," he explained, "And they brought a report back that all the people on death row were people who had gone for trafficking in drugs. And they had exhausted all the legal system possible."

The Nigerian newspaper Vanguard quoted a former envoy to the USA and Brazil as saying, "I have been to their airport in Jakarta; you see signs warning people carrying drugs that the penalty is death. But unfortunately, some people think that they can beat the system."

Nigerian citizens have held protests outside the Indonesian embassy in Lagos, and have expressed frustration at what they perceive as a lacklustre effort by their government. One protester, Okey Samuel, is quoted as saying, "We are not happy that our government is keeping quiet and allowing the Indonesian government to murder us like fowls."


Like his Australian counterparts Raheem seems to have reformed in prison, he has been cited for his concern over fellow prisoners and he teaches many of them English. Amongst his final requests are a phone call home — Nigerian families are often unable to afford a trip to Indonesia to see their imprisoned loved ones — and that his eyes and kidneys be donated after he is killed. Whether or not this is possible has not been confirmed, as medical facilities on Nusakambangan are poor.

There is a general desire in the African nation that Nigerian prisoners be returned to their home country to serve out their sentences. Nigeria still has the death penalty but not for drug offences.

Rodrigo Gularte, Brazil
Rodrigo Gularte, a 42-year-old Brazilian national suffering from severe schizophrenia, was arrested in 2004 with two other Brazilians for bringing 6kg of cocaine into Indonesia. Suffering from depression since his teenage years, his family has argued that drug addiction made him a susceptible to cartels looking for mules.

Brazil also had a citizen executed on January 18, Marco Archer. In response Brazil recalled their ambassador — he has since returned to advocate for clemency on behalf of Rodrigo. Like the PM in Australia the president of Brazil Dilma Rousseff is believed to have written an appeal directly to Indonesian president Joko Widodo.

In a tale that appears quite damning of the Indonesian justice system, Gularte's family claims to have been defrauded by their lawyer.


Rodrigo's mental illness caused a temporary delay in the upcoming executions of all prisoners. However, this had more to do with infrastructure than with any moral or legal complications arising from shooting a mentally ill person. As Indonesian Attorney General spokeseman Tony Spontana stressed to the Jakarta Post, "The prison management will need time to expand the capacity of the isolation chamber. That's why we've delayed the transfer of the death-row convicts".

More recently the Attorney General Muhammad Praseyto has denied that Rodrigo was mentally ill when he acted as a drug courier, and pointed out that Indonesian law states that only children and pregnant women are exempt from the death penalty.

Rodrigo, who tries to 'protect his aura' with a tightly bound backwards baseball cap filled with paper, believes the voices in his head that have told him the death penalty has been abolished the world over. It is unknown to what extent he will comprehend the firing squad and its purpose.

The last reported example of capital punishment in Brazil happened in 1876, and hasn't been handed down since the proclamation of a republic in 1889. All but abolished, it is still legal during wartime.

Serge Areski Atlaoui, France
Like his Brazilian and Australian counterparts for their countrymen Francois Hollande, the French President, also sent a letter on behalf of Serge Ataloui. However plans to send the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, to Indonesia were derailed by the Ukrainian crisis. Instead a phone call was made on Feburary 11.

Atlaoui, who has always maintained his innocence, was sentenced to death in 2007 for installing machinery in what he thought was an acrylics factory but was actually an ecstasy factory. His family, like so many of the prisoner's families, have stuck by him and made direct appeals to any Indonesian officials and members of the media who will listen. His wife Sabine told French newspaper Le Parisien, "If he makes a mistake, he takes responsibility. So I have no doubt of his sincerity."


According to the Sydney Morning Herald, he was not that long ago granted a temporary reprieve so that a last-ditch appeal can be heard. If the execution goes ahead Ataloui would be the first French person to face capital punishment since France abolished it in 1981.

Martin Anderson, Ghana
In June 2004 Martin Anderson was sentenced to death for the crime of possessing 50 grams of heroin. In contrast to the responses of other countries Ghana doesn't seem to care at all about Martin Anderson. Only Amnesty International have made any effort on his part to advocate for clemency

The closest Ghanaian consular office is in Malaysia and an officer there told that, to his knowledge, no Ghanaian official has visited Martin since he was arrested eleven years ago. "But when he was arrested in 2004, it could be he may not be from Ghana," he said. "It could be he is a person from another country using a false passport."

The fate of Martin Anderson doesn't seem to have made an impression in Ghana's media.

The last execution to be carried out in Ghana happened in 1993. A firing squad was used. Its death penalty status is considered abolitionist de facto.

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