Indonesia's prosecutor, police recall 'terrifying' executions

There was a long silence when a senior prosecutor with the Attorney General's Office (AGO) brought up his experiences leading three separate executions of death-row convicts during an interview last week.

The prosecutor, a former head of the North Maluku Prosecutor's Office identified only by the initials AK, said the task he was assigned to was not something to be proud of.

"I have buried those dark memories," AK, whose credentials also include the position of deputy head of the Jakarta Prosecutor's Office, told The Jakarta Post.

"I was nervous about the executions, even until the last seconds before the firing squad pulled their triggers. But I had to fulfil my duties," he said.

AK led his first execution in 2006, but refused to go into detail. He was only willing to discuss the execution of mass murderer Ahmad Suradji in 2008 in North Sumatra. The shaman was convicted in of murdering 42 women in 1998.

"The convict didn't show signs of grief. It was a quick death," he said.

AK insisted that during all three executions he oversaw, the firing squad never missed.

"All the convicts died within a minute,".

"Firing squad personnel are all well-trained. They have to be mentally fit for the job," he said.

Under Law No. 2/1964 on the procedures of an execution, the prosecutor is tasked with leading executions.

The prosecutor is required to announce the date of an execution three days beforehand. A convict should then immediately be transferred to an isolation cell at the location of the execution and be informed that they will face the firing squad.

According to AK, at the time of the execution, the convict is escorted by police personnel to the execution field, which is a restricted area. The convict is required to be blindfolded in his or her transfer to the place of execution.

If the prosecutor in charge finds it necessary, the convict may find their hands and feet tied up. However, AK recalled, in most cases the convict would then be allowed to sit, stand or kneel when facing the firing squad.

The convict is given the options when confronting the firing squad.

"I do not recall many emotional outcries from the convicts during their isolation period. Some cried and asked for religious counsel for final prayers, but most of them waited quietly as if they were resigned to their fate," said AK.

According to the law, the firing squad should simultaneously shoot at the convict, focusing on the heart.

If the convict does not die instantly from the shots, the prosecutor can order a member of the firing squad to shoot at the convict's head, right above the ear.

Fourteen personnel from the police's Mobile Brigade (Brimob) are assigned to an execution, but only 12 are tasked with shooting while the two others are placed on standby.

According to Brimob chief Brig. Gen. Robby Kaligis, police officers in their early 20s were usually selected to carry out the task as they were considered to be physically and mentally more fit than their seniors.

Robby himself had been part of a firing squad in the 1980s but declined to share his experience as he thought that the execution method was different compared to now.

He explained that the officers selected for the firing squad were given extra training to sharpen their shooting skills but acknowledged that preparing themselves mentally was much more important.

"The shooting is actually the easiest part. It's much harder to ensure that they are mentally prepared," he said, adding that such a terrifying experience should be forgotten.

"I don't want to remember that part of my life. We need to focus on the present and the future," he said.

After initially executing a batch of six drug convicts on Jan. 18, the government has insisted that it will continue to execute drug convicts.

Attorney General M. Prasetyo confirmed that the next batch to face the firing squad would consist of 10 death-row inmates, including two members of the Australian Bali Nine and a Brazilian drug convict who claimed to be mentally unfit.

Although Prasetyo initially said that the executions would be held in February, several technical issues caused delays, making it more likely that the executions will be held this month.

The executions have instigated a public outcry from the international community and at home.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott recently reminded Indonesia of the aid Australia provided after the 2004 tsunami in Aceh while Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff rejected the credentials of Indonesian ambassador Toto Riyanto.