JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia has beefed up security at Nusa Kambangan prison island as authorities prepare to execute people convicted of drug crimes for the third time since President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was elected in 2014.
The head of prisons in Central Java province said Tuesday that about 1,000 police have been sent to Cilacap, the town nearest the maximum security island, and that the prison is waiting for the attorney general’s order to carry out the executions.
The government hasn’t announced a date for the executions or the number of people. An official familiar with the plans said 13 people would be executed by firing squad shortly after midnight Friday. The official requested anonymity because he wasn’t permitted to speak publicly about the matter.
It would be the third set of executions under Jokowi, who campaigned on promises to improve human rights in Indonesia. His 2-year-old administration has executed almost as many people as were executed in the previous decade.
The government says the death penalty is necessary for drug crimes because Indonesia is facing a drug epidemic, particularly affecting young people.
Lawyers and groups opposed to capital punishment have criticized plans for more executions. They say that the death penalty is not preventing the spread of drug use, and that some of the convictions are questionable because of police corruption and flawed courts.
Last year, Indonesia executed 14 people convicted of drug crimes, mostly foreigners, sparking an international outcry.
An Indonesian woman, Merry Utami, and a Pakistani man, Zulfikar Ali, convicted of drug trafficking have been moved to Nusa Kambangan since the weekend, joining other death row prisoners there.
“Everything will be ready soon, then we will only be waiting for the order,” said Molyanto, the prisons head, who goes by a single name.
Indonesia’s Human Rights Commission and its National Commission on Violence Against Women said Tuesday that they have written to Jokowi asking for Utami’s execution to be postponed so an application for clemency can be prepared.
Yuniyanti Chuzaifah, a representative of the women’s commission, said many poor women such as Utami were tricked into the drug trade by men who won their trust by giving them attention, gifts and the promise of marriage.
“Merry is not a drug courier, she is only a human trafficking victim, and the real drug kingpins remain free to run their criminal businesses,” Chuzaifah said.
Justice Project Pakistan, a group that provides free legal representation, said Pakistani diplomats had stepped up their efforts to save Ali’s life but intervention by Pakistan’s president or prime minister is now required.
The group said Indonesian police used violent duress to obtain a confession from Ali, a father of six, when he was arrested in November 2004. His co-accused later retracted his confession implicating Ali, it said.
More than 130 people are on death row in Indonesia.
Executions for drug crimes have wide public support in Indonesia, though about 20 people staged an anti-death penalty protest Tuesday outside the presidential palace in Jakarta, the capital.