07/28/2016, 11.44
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Archbishop of Jakarta: We are opposed to the death penalty, we pray for the condemned

by Mathias Hariyadi

The government is preparing the execution of 14 prisoners of different nationalities within three days. They are all accused of drug dealing or drug possession. Msgr. Suharyo asks the faithful for special prayers "so that capital punishment is removed from our legal system." The European Union demand the suspension of executions. India and Pakistan appeal to save the lives of their citizens.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – "I encourage all Catholics in the diocese to recite a special prayer, with the hope that one day a moratorium on the death penalty is approved and it is abolished from our legal system", is the call to all the faithful by Msgr. Ignatius Suharyo, archbishop of Jakarta, after the news that by the end of the week 14 death row inmates will be executed in Indonesia.

In a message posted on social media, the Archbishop, "personally concerned by this issue," asked all the priests of his archdiocese to "spread the Catholic Church teaching on this subject, and at the same time pray for those who are close to death. "

Those condemned to death were locked in solitary confinement for two days in the prison of Nusakambangan, Cilacap (Central Java) and by 31 July will be executed by firing squads. Attorney General M. Prasetyo confirmed that the executions will be carried out. The prisoners, all accused of drug dealing or drug possession, come from Indonesia, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, India, and China. Today the authorities have handed over 14 coffins to the prison staff.

Msgr. Suharyo criticized the great media exposure to the executions. The Archbishop then quoted the encyclical Evangelium Vitae of St. John Paul II (1995): "Based on Catholic teachings, we consider legitimate the death penalty when the criminal works are extremely serious, but the judges should be advised to prefer other options if possible, to protect the dignity of the human person”.

For some time the Church in Indonesia, together with the Commission of Justice and Peace, have been strongly opposed to executions planned by the Jakarta government. The Commission has created a team of 11 lawyers who work pro bono for the innocent people who are mistaken for drug traffickers. In recent days the inclusion of Merri Utami on the list of 14 convicted has made headlines. The Indonesian migrant worker, was punished with the death penalty in 2003 for possession of a kilo of heroin. Yesterday a group of peopledemonstrated in front of the government building demanding her release: in fact, the woman is the victim of a scam devised by the traffickers, who planted the drugs on her without her knowledge. The case is very similar to that of Mary Jane Veloso,  a Filipino woman also on death row (but not included in this round of executions).

Jakarta has been criticized by the international community over its use of the death penalty. The European Union has asked the government to suspend the killings. Today, the Indian Foreign Minister addressed a final appeal to the Indonesian government to save the life of a 48 year old accused of drug dealing. Even Pakistan has stepped up diplomatic efforts to obtain the suspension of the sentence for its own citizens.

Indonesia has one of the strictest anti-drug laws in the world, to fight what President Joko Widodo has called "a national emergency." From 1979 to 2015,66 executions have been carried out.

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