Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Firing squad: Seven minutes to die

The Catholic priest who witnessed the execution of two drug traffickers in Indonesia in June has described how he sang hymns while the men took seven minutes to die.

Father Charlie Burrows was present when firing squads shot the two Nigerians in the middle of the night, in a forest clearing on Nusa Kambangan Island, Central Java.

Samuel Iwachekawu Okoye and Hansen Anthony Nwaoysa (or Antonious) were tied to crosses with their hands behind their backs and hoods over their heads, he told an Australian journalist.

The men prayed and sang hymns with the priest while they were shot, according to the report by Cindy Wockner.

"After they were shot they were hurting," Father Burrows said.

"They were moaning and it takes seven minutes to die, the blood was coming out. So then I tried singing a few hymns when they were dying. So you could say it's torture, shooting people. It's torture.

"It's torture. It's seven minutes to die so the heart is trying to pump the blood to the brain, the brain is still alive and as long as there's blood getting to the brain the brain is not going to die."

The report said the 65 year-old Irish priest, who has worked in Indonesia for 35 years, choked with tears when he recalled the execution and described the noises made by the dying men in those seven minutes.

It said officials and members of the two firing squads "stood stunned and uneasy" while they died.

'Take off my shoes'
Father Burrows said one of the prisoners requested a drink of water, and then asked the priest to take his final possessions for his wife.

"Antonious was thirsty so he asked for a drink of water ... and then for another and the prison guard was probably nervous and said you'll get a pain in your belly from the water and he said: 'The last thing I'm worried about is a pain in my belly, I'm going to be dead in a few minutes'," Father Burrows said.

"He had a handkerchief and a 100,000 Rupiah note and he asked me to take those out of his pocket and give them to his wife.

"Then he said, 'Father, are you still there, would you come forward and take off my shoes'. So I went forward and took off the shoes and he wanted his wife to get the shoes."

Related stories:
Indonesia: Seventh execution in six weeks -- 11 August, 2008
Indonesia: More to die for drugs -- 12 August, 2008
Indonesia: Record number executed in four weeks -- 20 July, 2008
Indonesia: Drug offenders executed, more to come -- 29 June, 2008
Executions in Indonesia since 1995 -- 26 September, 2006


mikeb302000 said...

Thanks for a wonderjul post and a great blog.

You know, I often write about the death penalty on my blog. Mainly the commenters are passionately in favor of it. Why is that?

Tim Goodwin, ADP said...

mikeb302000 - thanks for your feedback. That's an interesting question, and I'm not sure what the answer is.

Are the comments on your blog coming in mainly response to posts about the death penalty in the USA? I wonder if those comments are a spin-off from the US debate about the death penalty, where pro-death penalty sentiment seems to run so much higher, and therefore individuals have a higher motivation to post in support of execution. The US is really the only (mainly) English-speaking country with an organised pro-death movement.

In Australia, those who support the death penalty seem to be most active in ringing radio talk-back and writing occasional letters to newspapers. But I'm not sure if that means they don't use the Internet as much, or whether they simply don't put the same amount of energy into debating in favour of the death penalty.