Court to hear case review request of Filipina on Indonesia death row

JAKARTA, Indonesia (UPDATED) – A convicted Filipina drug courier on Indonesia's death row will have her request for a case review – the final legal option open available to her – heard in court on Tuesday, March 3. 

Philippine embassy representatives on Monday flew to Yogyakarta, where Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, 30, has been incarcerated since being arrested in April 2010 upon arriving at Yogyakarta's Adisucipto airport via an AirAsia flight from Kuala Lumpur with 2.6 kilograms of heroin.

Philippine officials are optimistic about Veloso's chances, as "there is strong new evidence in her case". A judicial review is only granted if new evidence is presented. 

The hearing will be held at the Sleman District Court, the same court that found her guilty and sentenced her to death in October 2010.

Filipino communities in Indonesia have been organizing prayer vigils for Veloso, who comes from a poor rural family in the Philippines. 

Indonesia's Attorney General has previously stated that Veloso was included in the next batch of 10 drug convicts to face the firing squad – the only woman and the convict who has spent the shortest time on death row in the list that includes with the Bali Nine pair from Australia.

However, Philippines Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose told Rappler execution "has been deferred because of the judicial review we requested." (READ: PH seeks case review of Filipina on Indonesia's death row)

During a state visit to the Philippines on February 9, Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Philippines President Benigno Aquino III signed 4 agreements, including one to combat illegal drug-trafficking. Contrary to previous reports, Charge d'Affairs Roberto G. Manalo of the Philippine Embassy said Aquino brought up Veloso's case with Jokowi during the visit.

Jokowi has issued a blanket rejection of all clemency requests from drug convicts on death row, citing Indonesia's drug emergency, despite mounting international pressure and calls for him to consider each case on its own merit.

'Just a courier'

Veloso maintains she did not know the suitcases she was paid to bring into Indonesia contained heroin, according to local news outlet Radar Jogja.

A single mother of two children, Veloso has said she was enticed by the offer of money from the foreigners who asked her to bring the suitcases. A domestic helper who hails from Bulacan, north of Manila, Veloso only finished high school. She was in Kuala Lumpur waiting to meet her potential employer when the offer to travel briefly to Yogyakarta came.  

She was only supposed to bring the two suitcases with her on board the AirAsia flight from Kuala Lumpur to Yogyakarta, and someone was supposed to pick her up at the airport and get the package from her.  

But that last part never happened, because she was arrested before exiting the airport. Concealed inside the suitcases were packs of heroin wrapped in aluminum foil estimated to have a street value of IDR6.5 billion (about $500,000).

If the judicial review request is rejected, Veloso will have no legal recourse left and will be put to death by a firing squad. If it's granted by the court, the case will be sent to the Supreme Court. – with a report from Paterno Esmaquel II/Rappler.com

 Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story said Veloso was widowed. She is in fact separated.