Indonesia, facing global criticism over a spate of executions of foreigners on drug charges, is now under pressure from the grindcore lobby. The Independent reported Feb. 3 that Napalm Death frontman Barney Greenway is personally petitioning President Joko Widodo for clemency—taking advantage of the fact that His Excellency Widodo is an avid fan. (The Independent amusingly shows him wearing a Napalm Death T-shirt.)
Last month, Greenway [second from left in group photo] appealed in the case of two Australian members of the “Bali Nine,” Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, facing execution on a heroin trafficking charge. Chan and Sukumaran are apparently also metal fans, and Greenway is reaching out to Widodo in a spirit of headbanger solidarity. Now, the English rocker has released an open letter to Widodo urging clemency for Lindsay Sandiford, a 57-year-old British grandmother who faces the firing squad in Bali on a coke-smuggling charge. Adopting considerably more dulcet tones than he uses onstage, Greeway writes:
I am writing to you again to appeal for mercy and restraint, this time regarding the case of Lindsay Sandiford, a prisoner from the UK who it would seem is facing the prospect of imminent execution on the grounds of cocaine trafficking. My request for a considered, humane perspective extends to all prison detainees, but particularly in the case of Lindsay Sandiford it would appear that she was under duress to transport drugs, with her family under threat if she did not comply…
For the second time, Mr Widodo, I would ask you to raise yourself above the threshold of all those in power that merely pretend to make changes for the better. To my mind, your election platform promises of moves toward a more egalitarian civic structure means protection at all levels – and capital punishment can only take things backwards in that respect. I ask you to please keep these promises at the forefront of your mind and urgently give your attention to Lindsay Sandiford’s plight.
In peace and hope, as ever
Mark ‘Barney’ Greenway (Napalm Death)
It is a race against time, however. The clock is ticking for all these death-row prisoners—despite seeming gross irregularities in the legal process.The Guardian reports that lawyers for Chan and Sukumaran are protesting a court’s decision to reject a last-ditch application for review of their case. The court in Denpasar, Bali, ruled the case could not be sent to Indonesia’s Supreme Court for assessment, citing a finding by the Supreme Court itself that prisoners can only file one such review. But the Constitutional Court issued its own ruling on the question, finding that prisoners may file more than one, “leaving the twin peaks of the country’s judicial system at loggerheads.” The Supreme Court is technically the highest court, but the Constitutional Court is that charged with seeing that laws conform to the country’s constitution. The lead lawyer for the pair, Todung Mulya Lubis, told The Guardian the rejection “can be considered violation of the constitutional court decision.”
Claudia Stoicescu in The Conversation meanwhile deconstructs Widodo’s claim of a national drug “emergency” that necessitates the death penalty in such cases, finding it “based on questionable statistics.” The figure of 4.5 million drug users in need of rehabilitation is a projection of the number of people predicted to use drugs in 2013 by a 2008 study overseen by the National Narcotics Agency (BNN). Additionally, the word “addiction” is dishonestly applied to all survey respondents who had used “drugs” (presumably including cannabis) more than 49 times in the previous year. Sounds pretty specious.
And Widodo, metalhead or not, is intransigent. In December, he stated all too earnestly: “No clemency for convicts already receiving death sentence. No, no, no.” (UGM, Dec. 10)