Nigerian in death-row accuses Indonesian authority of torture

A Nigerian man facing imminent execution in Indonesia tearfully told a court that police electrocuted his genitals to force him to confess to possessing heroin.

Michael Titus Igweh is among several prisoners on death row whom lawyers and human rights groups are frantically lobbying to save from the firing squad amid claims they were tortured and their legal cases riddled with corruption, errors and miscarriages of justice.

“I was constantly beaten, and my genitals electrocuted until I was helpless,” the clothes importer, who was sentenced to death in 2003 for possessing 5.8 kilograms of heroin, told the Tangerang District Court in May. “In fact, I was threatened to be shot.”

Sources have told Fairfax Media the third wave of executions in Indonesia could be held within days. It is understood the Nigerian and Pakistani embassies have now been notified that their nationals are among those to be killed.

Indonesian Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo reiterated on Friday the executions would be “soon” and would include Indonesians and possibly a woman. Mr Prasetyo had earlier said prisoners from Nigeria and Zimbabwe would be among those targeted.

Indonesian human rights group Imparsial said an anti-death penalty coalition would present the staff of Indonesian President Joko Widodo with a list of about seven death row prisoners who had faced unfair trials and miscarriages of justice.

“It is very dangerous to carry out executions when the legal system is fragile and riddled with corruption, error, manipulation and collusion,” Imparsial executive director Al Araf said.

The anomalous cases to be brought to the president’s attention include that of Pakistani textile worker Zulfiqar Ali, who was sentenced to death in 2005 for possessing 300 grams of heroin, and Indonesian imported flour seller Christian, whose lawyer said he was wrongfully arrested and tortured.

Mr Ali’s lawyer, Saut Edward Rajaguguk, said the Pakistani embassy and Mr Ali’s wife had been notified that his client would be included in the third round of executions.

But he said the case against Mr Ali was absurd. “Zulfiqar Ali was not arrested red-handed carrying 300 grams of heroin at Soekarno-Hatta airport. He was arrested about three months later when spending time in Puncak with his girlfriend.”

SitiBe_comPhoto:Andri Donnal Putera

Mr Saut said the man caught with the drugs, an Indian national, had named Mr Ali as the owner when he was being beaten by police in the airport office. However he later retracted this during Mr Ali’s trial.

“Zulfiqar Ali was also beaten up by police when he was arrested and forced to confess the drug was his. He was asked for money by the police but refused and so the case continued.”

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court last week rejected an application for a case review into the case of Mr Igweh, the Nigerian clothes importer who claimed his genitals had been electrocuted.

His lawyer, Sitor Situmorang, told Fairfax Media that Supreme Court judges should try cases based on the law and not to achieve popularity or appear tough.

“We accepted Michael’s case because we saw it had merit. Out of the many requests from prisoners on Nusakambangan, we only took this,” Mr Sitor said.

He said Mr Igweh’s conviction was based on the testimony of two alleged accomplices, Marlena and Izuchukwu Okoloaja, who died in police custody and could therefore not testify in court.

“We believe Marlena and Okoloaja gave Michael’s name just so the police would stop torturing them,” he said.

“They were healthy when they were arrested, they had no history of illness, they all just suddenly died while in police custody. We all know what that means.”

In a further ominous sign the executions could be just days away, prison visits have this week been suspended to the penal island of Nusakambangan, where the prisoners will be strapped to wooden posts and shot in a field.

Fourteen drug offenders were executed in Indonesia last year, including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, sparking an international backlash.

However the Indonesian government insists executions are necessary to combat a so-called drugs emergency.

“The public want it to be done soon,” Attorney-General Prasetyo said on Friday. “We are getting more informed now and can see how drugs have affected our younger generation. We could just lose a generation.”

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