Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Despite criticism from the Catholic Church, civil society groups and the international community, the Indonesian government today announced that eight convicted drug traffickers would executed, including two members of the so-called Bali Nine, a group of nine Australians arrested in 2005 in connection with plans to smuggle a huge quantity of drugs.
The Attorney General of Indonesia, HM Prasetyo, said that the group would be executed by firing squad before 25 February 2015. The Australian government tried several times to extradite its citizens without success. The two Australians on death row are Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumara (pictured).
The eight slated for execution are held in three different prisons, in Java and Bali. The Catholic Church, through Justice and Peace group, expressed "grave concern" over the announcement, which follows a string of convictions approved by the new government.
Right after his election, Indonesia's new president, Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, said that drug trafficking and drug use are "the worst cancers" that affect Indonesia.
On previous occasions, the president said convicted drug traffickers would not be pardoned, that the iron fist is the only way to fight drugs in Indonesia, a country that has become an important hub for the trade.
Recently, Indonesia's National Narcotics Agency (Badan Narkotika Nasional or BNN) published a report, indicating that at least five million Indonesians depend on drugs in some form.
This worries Indonesian bishops. Although opposed to the president's hard-line stance, they have called for action in favour of prevention and against drug use.
Even in government circles, some voices have expressed opposition to executions. Bali Governor Mangku Pastika said that the death penalty should not be carried out in his territory, the country's foremost tourist destination, because of its negative impact on the economy, which depends of foreign holidaymakers.