Indonesia to accelerate legal process for Filipina on death row

JAKARTA, Indonesia – A decision on convicted Filipina drug courier Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso's final appeal could come this week, as Indonesia wants to proceed with the execution of death row convicts immediately. 

Veloso, who was sentenced to death in 2010 for attempting to smuggle 2.6 kilograms of heroin into Indonesia, is waiting for the Supreme Court to decide on her judicial review request – the final legal remedy open to her. (READ: Fate of Filipina on death row now with Indonesia's Supreme Court)

“The case will be accelerated,” Coordinating Minister of Political, Legal and Security Affairs Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno said on Monday, March 9, according to state news agency Antara. “We’re waiting. Probably this week we will get the ruling from the Supreme Court.”

Veloso, a 30-year-old mother of two, was expected to be part of the next batch of drug convicts on death row to be executed, which includes foreign nationals from Australia, France, and Brazil. But Philippine officials said her execution had been deferred because of her judicial review request. 

Last week, the Sleman District Court in Yogyakarta wrapped up a two-day hearing of that review request and submitted its findings to the Supreme Court. Veloso's lawyers had argued the 30-year-old mother of two wasn't given a competent translator during her first trial, which ended in her being sentenced to death. (READ: Lawyers for Filipina on death row: Her translator was just a student)

The Attorney General's Office, which is in charge of the executions, last week said they were 95% finished with preparations. But the government has yet to schedule when the convicts will actually face the firing squad because of pending legal proceedings. 

Tedjo said Indonesia never intented to delay the executions, but they have to respect the legal process.

“The delay (of the execution) was because of the case review, but it won’t be long,” he added. 

Aside from Veloso, the two Australians and a French convict on death row are also mounting legal challenges to their sentences, although Indonesian officials insist an appeal for presidential clemency is the final chance to avoid execution.

Strong case

Veloso's lawyers are confident the judicial review request will be granted because there is precedent. 

In 2007, the Supreme Court commuted the sentence of Thai national Nonthanam M. Saichon from death penalty to life imprisonment because of the translator issue.  

"(Saichon) tested positive for drugs, while Mary Jane did not," lawyer Agus Salim said in court, adding that Saichon knew what she was doing as she had the drugs hidden in her underwear. 

Veloso, who comes from a poor family in Bulacan, north of Manila, only made it to the first year of high school and can only speak Tagalog fluently. However, she was given a foreign language student as a translator, who interpreted the Bahasa Indonesia legal proceedings for Veloso in English. 

She maintains she didn't know that there were drugs in the suitcases she was asked to bring with her to Yogyakarta. She went to Malaysia supposedly to work as a domestic helper, but her would-be employer failed to meet her. She was then asked to go to Indonesia and bring the suitcases with her.

"Mary Jane is a victim of an international drug syndicate. She was manipulated and deceived by an acquaintance named Christine to bring 2.6 kg of heroin from Malaysia to Yogyakarta," Agus said in court. – Rappler.com