Clemency plea for Hongkonger on death row on Indonesia’s ‘Execution Island’
Chief executive’s office steps in as man convicted of drug trafficking faces execution
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s office has made a formal plea for clemency to the Indonesian authorities for a Hong Kong man who has been sentenced to death for drug trafficking.
With the clock ticking for 39-year-old Anika Lai Shiu-cheung on the Nusakambangan Island, the notorious “Execution Island” in Central Java, Leung’s office confirmed it had recently sent a letter to the Indonesian consulate in Hong Kong asking for clemency. Details of the letter were not disclosed.
Consul general Tri Tharyat told the Post that the letter had already been forwarded to the Indonesian foreign ministry.
“After that, the consulate general will observe the process undertaken by the officials in Jakarta,” the diplomat said.
Asked if he believed Lai’s claims that he was beaten up by the Indonesian police and that he was innocent, Tri said Lai had already been given the opportunity to state his arguments in all three layers of legal proceedings – the lower, higher, and top courts.
“We have faith in the legal system. But I can’t comment on the outcome of the proceedings,” Tri said.
Lai’s 69-year-old mother, Shiu Yuk-chee, is desperate to see her only child come home.
“He told me he did not do it,” Shiu said. “He is an honest person. I believe he did not do it.”
According to Shiu, the saga started in 2013 when a former colleague of Lai asked him to send a batch of preserved fruit from Hong Kong to Indonesia. Lai was told that he would be rewarded with HK$100,000 once the job was completed.
But the middleman who was supposed to receive the preserved fruit in Jakarta was nowhere to be seen when Lai arrived in the country. Stranded with a big batch of the produce, the ex-colleague asked him to find a warehouse to store the goods first and then open a shop to sell them.
In April 2014, Lai was handling renovation issues at the shop, which was in a shopping mall. Several people suddenly stormed inside and beat him up.
“He thought it was robbery because they were pointing guns at him. They were searching the shop looking for something,” Shiu said.
She claimed Lai was then taken to a vehicle where the attackers finally identified themselves as police officers. They were unable to communicate with each other because of the language barrier and Lai was taken to his hotel where he was beaten up again, she said.
The next day, Shiu claimed, Lai was taken to the warehouse where he had stored the preserved fruit, but found crystal meth there instead, Shiu said.
In November 2014, Lai was sentenced to life in prison by the lower court. An appeal court upheld the lower court’s decision in February 2015, but the top court sentenced Lai to death in September 2015. He was sent to the “Execution Island” last month.
Lai was not represented by lawyers in courts, Shiu said. She said Lai’s former boss once flew to Indonesia to try to find him a lawyer, but it did not work out, with the former boss getting scammed HK$40,000 instead.
Shiu also said she did not have the opportunity to find legal representatives for her son. The first time Lai told Shiu that he was charged with drug trafficking was after the top court had already made its decision.
The charge sheets said Lai trafficked 91kg of crystal meth, but the court judgement said it was only about 423 grams, Shiu said.
The Post could not verify Shiu’s accounts, but spoke with Democratic Party lawmaker James To Kun-sun, who is assisting the family. To is trying to obtain primary documents of the case. He hoped that the authorities could first stay the execution.
Last week, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said he would restore a moratorium on the death penalty if he won the backing of the people, after a spate of executions drew international condemnation.
He has rarely granted clemency but did so in 2015 for convicted murderer Diwi Trisna Firmansyah, reducing his death sentence to life imprisonment.
No date for Lai’s execution has been announced.