Who is Mary Jane Veloso, and why is she on death row?
Mary Jane Veloso, along with two members of the 'Bali Nine,' is scheduled to face death by firing squad in Indonesia. What was her crime, and is there still a chance for mercy amidst international outcry?
[Update, 5:47 E.T. Mary Jane Veloso was spared at the last minute, her execution delayed after the woman who allegedly recruited Ms. Veloso turned herself in to the Philippine government. The other eight prisoners were executed by an Indonesian firing squad, the media reported.]
On Twitter, the trending hashtags #IStandForMercy and #SaveMaryJaneVeloso are gaining traction in a last effort to stop the planned execution of nine drug traffickers in Indonesia. Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipina who claims innocence, is one of the prisoners scheduled to be executed on April 28.
So who is she, and how did she wind up on death row? Her case has gained international attention, mainly because of claims that she is a victim of the illegal drug trafficking industry. As people from around the world call to stop the execution, Indonesian president Joko Widodo (Jokowi) continues to choose the path of justice over mercy.
In April 2010, Ms. Veloso was arrested at Jogiakarta Airport in Indonesia after 2.6 kilos of heroin was found in a suitcase she was carrying. According to Migrante International, the group assisting Veloso with her case, Veloso was unaware the drugs were present because the brand-new luggage was allegedly given to her by Maria Kristina Sergio, who traveled with Veloso to Malaysia in 2010 and denies involvement with the drug trafficking charges.
Veloso was sentenced to death in October 2010. In 2013, fellow inmates and jail guards raised funds to allow her family, including her two young sons, to travel to Indonesia to visit her for a month. They are once again in Indonesia for Veloso's last days.
Upon entering office in October 2014, President Jokowi declared a war on drug trafficking and rejected all clemency appeals for prisoners convicted of that charge. This week, nine prisoners face execution, according to The Guardian, including two Australians, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, two members of the so-called "Bali Nine." A tenth prisoner’s execution was delayed pending a legal challenge.
The prisoners come from the Philippines, Australia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Ghana, and Brazil. Governments of these countries are appealing to postpone the executions. But thus far, the Indonesian government stands firm in its decision to carry them out.
In a statement from the governments of Australia, France, and the European Union, reported by The Sydney Morning Herald, the governments ask that President Jokowi extend mercy:
It is our hope that Indonesia can show forgiveness to ten detainees. Forgiveness and rehabilitation are fundamental to the Indonesian judicial system as well as in our system … We fully respect the sovereignty of Indonesia. But we are against the death penalty in our country and abroad. The execution will not give deterrent effect to drug trafficking or stop the other from becoming victims will abuse drugs. To execute these prisoners now will not achieve anything.
Indonesians, and others, have expressed their desire to halt the executions.
Jokowi said in an interview with Philippine broadcast network ABS-CBN the he does not intend to halt the executions, and that it is the country’s decision to move forward.
"We will practice our constitution. The law does allow for execution, and I think other countries should respect Indonesian laws," Jokowi said, according to Rappler.
Indonesian Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo backed the president, and said the country needs to follow through on its plans in order to show authority.
"Don't force us to cancel or postpone the executions. If we do, we will be perceived as weak," Prasetyo said in a meeting on Tuesday, Rappler reported.
People have gone to Twitter in an effort to spread awareness and hopefully stop the execution of Veloso, as well as the others.