July 29, 2015
Woman who says she was duped into smuggling drugs was given last-minute reprieve from firing squad but remains on death row
Officials from the Philippines arrived in Indonesia on Wednesday to discuss a case against drug traffickers that they hope can prove that a Filipino former domestic worker was tricked into smuggling heroin and save her from a firing squad.
Mary Jane Veloso was given a temporary reprieve by Indonesian president Joko Widodo just hours before she was due to be executed in April. Eight men were killed by firing squad that day.
Her alleged trafficker had handed herself in to the police in Manila, and the Philippines president, Benigno Aquino, made a last-minute appeal on the basis that Veloso would be needed as a witness in the case against her alleged recruiter.
“Primarily we are updating the Indonesian government on progress made in the case of Mary Jane Veloso,” Filipino department of foreign affairs (DFA) spokesperson Charles Jose told the Guardian.
The Philippines justice secretary, Leila de Lima, has set up a special taskforce to investigate the drug traffickers, which could prove the argument made by her supporters that Veloso is a victim of human trafficking, not a drug trafficker.
Key to the last-minute reprieve was that the Philippines invoked a regional treaty signed to fight transnational crimes in south-east Asia.
The Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) obliges countries to help each other fight crime outside their borders – in this instance, by keeping alive a key witness in a potential human trafficking case.
Jose said officials in Jakarta on Wednesday “will also explore how we can use MLAT in our investigation”.
Indonesia’s attorney general, Muhammad Prasetyo, said later that the discussions were unlikely to save Veloso from death row.
“I reiterate that their demand to free [Veloso] is difficult. This is because she has been found guilty for drug smuggling in Indonesia,” he was quoted as saying by the Indonesian Kompas news website.
An online petition with more than 430,000 signatures says Veloso is from a poor area in the north of the Philippines. It said the single mother of two sons was seeking employment and had no idea heroin was in the lining of her suitcase.
Source: The Guardian, Oliver Holmes in Bangkok and Carmela Fonbuena in Manila, July 29, 2015