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Indonesia defends execution plans

AAP logoAAP 28/07/2016 By Lauren Farrow and Heru Rahadi

More than a year after 14 people were shot in two rounds of executions, Indonesia is again defending itself against international criticism which has described it as the most "prolific executioner" in the region.

As the sun rose on Nusakambangan island prison in Central Java on Thursday, 17 ambulances and 14 coffins were seen entering the notorious jail.

Inside, death row prisoners were kept in their isolation cells, so authorities could "prepare", Cilacap District Police spokesman Bintoro Wasono said.

Local undertaker Suhendro Putro, who prepared coffins for Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran last year, was meanwhile told to "be ready tonight".

He told AAP he was instructed to organise more than 14 people to help him bathe the bodies of Muslim and Christians. He believes the number will be 14 and that executions could be carried out as early as midnight.

Indonesia's Attorney-General's office has yet to officially confirm how many people are to face the firing squad or the exact timetable, but a number of prisoners received notifications on Tuesday afternoon, usually signalling executions would take place in 72 hours.

As planning intensifies, the international community and local lawyers have become increasingly vocal, with The UN Human Rights Office expressing "deep concern about the lack of transparency throughout the process and compliance with fair trial guarantees".

At least two death row prisoners - Nigerian Humphrey "Jeff" Ejike Eleweke and Pakistani Zulfiqar Ali - have alleged they were held without access to lawyers for months after their arrests and were also beaten during interrogations.

It has also emerged that former director-general of human rights in the ministry of law, Hafid Abbas, made a recommendation more than a decade ago to then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that Ali should be pardoned.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Al Hussein said it also marked a worrying trend in Indonesia, which ended its four-year de facto moratorium on executions in 2013.

"I find it deeply disturbing that Indonesia has already executed 19 people since 2013, making it the most prolific executioner in Southeast Asia," he said in a statement on Thursday.

But Indonesia remains staunch.

Foreign Affairs Ministry Spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said the death penalty remained a legal avenue within Indonesia and that its implementation for drug offenders was in reaction to the rapid distribution of illicit substances in the region.

"All legal rights and legal process for the convicts of death penalty have been given and have been used in accordance to Indonesian judicial system. The target is on drug dealers, not users. For users, we rehabilitate them," he told reporters on Thursday.

Indonesia, he added, respected other countries' legal measures, and they should do the same.

"We don't see this would disturb bilateral relationship because ... this is about law enforcement. We expect other country to respect laws in Indonesia."

There are more than 100 people on death row in Indonesia with the Attorney-General's office previously flagging it had the budget to execute a further 30 people in 2017.

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