Death row convict Gurdip Singh awaits ‘final decision’ in Indonesia

  • Rezaul H Laskar, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 29, 2016 20:00 IST
Activists light candles around posters with the names of death row inmates awaiting executions, including that of India’s Gurdip Singh, during a vigil against death penalty outside ‘the presidential palace in Jakarta. (AP)

Uncertainty surrounds the fate of 10 death row prisoners in Indonesia, including Indian national Gurdip Singh, after they were granted a last minute reprieve early on Friday.

Indonesia’s attorney general M Prasetyo said on Friday their executions will be carried out at an “appropriate time”, while Molyanto, an official of the legal and human rights ministry, said it was unlikely the condemned people will face a firing squad in the near future.

Despite widespread criticism by rights advocates and appeals from distraught families and foreign governments, Indonesia executed four drug convicts early on Friday. Ten other condemned people who were to face a firing squad were spared.

For Singh’s family in Jalandhar district of Punjab, it has been a rollercoaster ride – an Indian official mistakenly informed them shortly after midnight on Thursday that he had been executed. Hours later, 48-year-old Singh called his wife Kulwinder Kaur and confirmed he was still alive.

Prasetyo said the postponement of the execution of 10 drug convicts on Nusakambangan prison island in Cilacap city was a “last minute decision”. The executions were put off after a comprehensive review involving police and foreign ministry officials to avoid “errors both judicial and non-judicial”, he told reporters in Jakarta.

“It was decided to carry on with executions of four drug convicts, while executions for the other 10 will be decided later and carried out at an appropriate time,” Prasetyo was quoted as saying by The Jakarta Post.

Molyanto, the official from the legal and human rights ministry, told the Post it was unlikely the next wave of executions will be carried out in the “near future”. He added, “There is no notification yet of another round of executions for the convicts whose executions were cancelled.”

Read: Gurdip Singh innocent, his agent cheated him in Indonesia, says family

The 10 death row convicts – three Indonesians and six foreigners – will be transferred from the prison island, where Indonesia carries out executions, to their former jails until a final decision is made, Prasetyo said.

Prasetyo rejected suggestions that Indonesia had halted the executions because of international pressure. He said though officials had heard many opinions, all parties should respect Indonesian law.

Kulwinder Kaur and her children celebrate in Nakodar, Jalandhar, after Kulwinder’s husband Gurdeep Singh was saved from execution in Indonesia. (PTI)

Indonesia’s Freddy Budiman, Seck Osmane from Senegal, and Michael Titus and Humphrey Jefferson from Nigeria were the convicts who were executed.

Rights groups such as Amnesty International have said some of the death row prisoners had not been given a fair trial and that they were tortured in custody to obtain confessions.

Contrary to Indonesian law, the families of the condemned prisoners were informed about their impending execution only on Thursday morning. Indonesian law requires that relatives be informed at 72 hours in advance.

“The Indonesian authorities are proceeding with indecent haste. There are four clemency appeals that are still to be heard, and there are serious fair trial concerns about many prisoners’ cases,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty’s director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Amnesty has also documented what it said were “systemic flaws in Indonesia’s criminal justice system and its implementation of the death penalty”.

These include violations of the right to a fair trial, the right not to be subjected to torture or to other cruel, inhuman treatment or punishment, the right to apply for clemency or pardon of a death sentence, and foreign nationals or others who do not understand or speak the language used by authorities are entitled to the assistance of an interpreter following arrest and at all other stages of the proceedings.

The imposition of the death penalty for drug-related offences also violates international law, which only permits the use of the punishment for “the most serious crimes”, Amnesty said.

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