LOOK: Drug convict sentenced to death writes heartbreaking letter to President Jokowi

Natashya Gutierrez
LOOK: Drug convict sentenced to death writes heartbreaking letter to President Jokowi
Merry Utami, 42, whom activists say was used as a drug mule without her knowledge, writes a last minute plea to the Indonesian president to spare her life

CILACAP, Indonesia – As Indonesia prepares to execute 14 drug convicts, last minute appeals have been lodged, pleading the government to spare the lives of some of those scheduled to die.

Among them is the appeal of the Pakistan embassy to spare their national Zulfiqar Ali, who says he was forced to confess under torture by police and was not given a translator during his trial.

The family members of Nigerian Michael Titus Igweh also asked Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to review his case, as Igweh said he was electrocuted by police forcing him to confess.

But perhaps the most heartbreaking plea comes from one of the convicts themselves, Merry Utami, 42, whom activists say was used as a drug mule without her knowledge. Authorities found 1.1kg of heroin in her bag at the Soekarno Hatta international airport in Jakarta in 2002.

Utami was coming from Nepal with a Canadian man she recently met, whom activists allege planted heroin in Utami’s bag, which he gifted her. 

After her name was announced among the list to be executed, Utami wrote a letter to the president in Bahasa Indonesia dated July 26, asking for pardon. While she maintains her innocence, it is a requirement for convicts to admit to their fault when asking for clemency.

FINAL PLEA. Merry Utami asks President Joko Widodo for mercy. Photo sourced by Rappler

Her letter, translated in English, reads:

To President Jokowi, 

With utmost respect, I, Merry Utami, beg your forgiveness for what I have done to this country. I ask for mercy and leniency from you to lessen my sentence.

Sir, I deeply regret the stupidity that I have done, which caused me to violate the law.

I hope Mr. Jokowi, with mercy, you can forgive all I have done.

I respectly convey my utmost gratitude. I wish you and your family be in good health always.

Sincerely,

Merri

Justice

On Thursday, July 28, about 8 women activists came to Cilacap’s Holcim port, the entryway to Nusakambungan island where executions are carried out.

They protested and asked for the release of Utami before being arrested by the police.

Vivi Manopi, from the human rights group Indonesia for Mercy, said she and colleagues planned to come to Cilacap to hold a vigil but because there are talks the executions would be carried out on Friday midnight instead of the originally thought Saturday schedule, the group decided to stay in Jakarta instead in fears they would not make it.

She told Rappler they would hold a vigil in front of the State Palace in Jakarta.

“I’m not only standing for Merri. I’m not standing for her because she’s a woman and I’m a woman. I’m standing for life,” she told Rappler over the phone.

“I know she needs a second chance. She has already stayed in prison for 15 years and she’s a victim of poverty, and of a drug trafficker. She has been used.”

Manopi compared Utami’s case to that of Filipina convict Mary Jane Veloso. Veloso was given a last-minute reprieve in April 2015, after her recruiter turned herself in.

“Between Mary Jane and Merri Utami, the similiarity is both of them are victims. They are not the mastermind,” she said.

No to death penalty

Manopi said Utami’s funeral is planned to take place in Cilacap, but she said she is unsure who will claim the body, since her family disowned her when she was arrested.

“I don’t think they will come over to Cilacap. Because when Merri was in prison for 15 years, they (husband and sister) never visited her. They felt Merri was lying to them.”

Manopi also said she met Utami two years ago.

“She didn’t want to talk about the death penalty. She knew she was on death row but she didn’t know when she would be executed.”

Manopi also said Utami was a different person from before she was in prison, having repented for all her sins.

TO NUSAKAMBANGAN. Indonesian policemen arrive to cross to Nusakambangan island at the Cilacap port, the only gate to Indonesia's highest security Nusakambangan prison in Cilacap on July 25, 2016. Photo by Bayu Nur/AFP

While Manopi said she believes Utami is innocent, she said that even if she weren’t, she as well as the other drug convicts, guilty or not, deserved a second chance in life.

“In this country, we have a constitution. The right of life is a guarantee in our country,” she said.

“For me there is only one point: whatever they’re doing. people need a second chance. I refuse death penalty for whatever reason, for me there’s no meaning in killing. It doesn’t make any sense.”

Manopi joins other human rights activists and organizations like the United Nations, the European Union and Amnesty International in condemning capital punishment for drug-related offenses.

The Indonesian government however, refuses to change its stance saying its good for the country in combating its drug problem. – Rappler.com

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