After a decade in prison and months of futile diplomatic efforts to save them, Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were this morning executed on Nusakambangan prison island.
Six other condemned prisoners died with them but a ninth, Filipina maid Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, was given what Sukumaran and Chan were denied – a last-minute reprieve from the firing squad.
According to Cilacap Catholic Priest Father Charlie Burrows, who was on the scene as the executions took place, the prisoners chose to go without blindfolds, preferring to look the firing squad in the eyes.
The eight also sung choir songs for each other before they were shot.
Relatives and friends of the condemned Australians were in a tent near the executions and reportedly became hysterical when the shots were heard around 12.30am local time (3.30am AEST).
The bodies were cleaned and formally identified by consular officials, before being transported in ambulances for the 12hour-trip to Jakarta, from where they will be repatriated.
But amid reports of gunfire at the prison and confirmation supplied to Indonesian media outlets, Ms Bishop said “we must assume” the executions have taken place.
Those executed with Sukumaran and Chan were Nigerians Sylvester Obiekwe Nwolise, Raheem Agbaje Salami and Okwuduli Oyatanze, Martin Anderson of Ghana, Rodrigo Gularte of Brazil, and Zainal Abidin of Indonesia.
Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso of the Philippines was due to be put to death with the others, but according to the Jakarta Post, she was granted a reprieve at almost literally the last minute.
Veloso, a poverty-stricken 30-year-old maid and mother of two, had maintained throughout her trial and imprisonment that she was a victim of human trafficking who had drugs planted in her luggage.
Yesterday the alleged recruiter of Veloso handed herself in to authorities, prompting the government of the Philippines to ask for the execution to be delayed until new evidence could be considered.
After emergency meetings and frantic back-and-forths between Indonesian and Filipino authorities, Veloso was withdrawn from the execution line-up just in time.
The two Australians were not so lucky.
It was the second mass execution in Indonesia this year after the country put six other prisoners to death in January.
For much of their final few days, it seemed that 34 year-old Sukumaran and 31 year-old Chan, ringleaders of the Bali Nine plot to smuggle 8.3 kilograms of heroin from Bali into Australia, might enjoy a similar reprieve.
On Monday their former lawyer Muhammad Rifan went public with explosive corruption allegations, claiming that during the original trial in 2006 the judges had tried to solicit bribes in exchange for more lenient sentences.
Rifan claimed he had not yet been interviewed by the Indonesian Judicial Commission, but in a statement issued yesterday the legal body said a probe had already been conducted into the matter, and any further investigations would not stop the executions from taking place.
As the final appeals fizzled out of existence, the prisoners spent their last day with loved ones at Nusa Kambangan prison.
‘I won’t see my son again’
After their heartbreaking farewell, Andrew Chan’s and Myuran Sukumaran’s distressed families begged and pleaded to the Indonesian government for mercy one last time on Tuesday afternoon, just hours before the drug smugglers’ execution, shortly after midnight local time.
Sukumaran’s mother Raji could barely stand as she pleaded for her son’s life and his sister pounded her other brother Chinthu’s arm in distress.
“I won’t see my son again and they are going to take him tonight and shoot him,” Raji wept.
“I’m asking the government not to kill him please.
“Please don’t kill him today, please don’t, call off the execution. Please don’t, don’t kill my son, please don’t.”
The families spent their final hours with their loved ones on Nusakambangan on Tuesday, returning to the port town of Cilacap to speak to the media on what had been a harrowing day.
After fighting through an aggressive scrum of media to enter the prison on Tuesday, the families were permitted to stay beyond the original visitation deadline of 2pm, right up until 8pm.
For Veloso’s relatives, there will be more such visits to come, but for the rest, it was goodbye.
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Australia will withdraw its ambassador to Indonesia in response to the execution of Chan and Sukumaran.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott made the announcement at a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop hours after the two Australians were put to death.
Mr Abbott added that ministerial contacts between the two countries had been suspended.
“These executions are both cruel and unnecessary; cruel because both Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran spent some decade in jail before being executed, and unnecessary, because both of these young Australians were fully rehabilitated while in prison,” he said.
The Prime Minister was careful to emphasise the continued importance of the Australia-Indonesia relationship, and cautioned against Australians allowing their “anger to make a bad situation worse”.
In the lead-up to the executions, there were widespread calls for further government action.
International human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson says Australia should cut off aid to Indonesia and give the $600 million to earthquake-ravaged Nepal if the executions proceed.
Mr Robertson joined a vigil in Sydney on Tuesday night, with other vigils being held in Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane.
Former Labor Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said capital punishment achieved nothing but the “further destruction of life”.
“As a long-standing friend of Indonesia with a deep affection for its people, I add my voice respectfully requesting this act of clemency,” he tweeted.
While a group of actors produced a video telling Tony Abbott he should have gone to Jakarta to bring the drug smugglers home, Ms Bishop said expert advice warned against a prime ministerial trip to Indonesia.
“Clearly, if travelling to Indonesia would make a difference, we would have gone there,” she told the Nine Network on Tuesday.
– with Max Opray