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Death by Zoom: Virus-hit Indonesia orders executions online

JAKARTA: Indonesia has sentenced scores of prisoners to death over Zoom and other video apps during the pandemic in what critics say is an “inhumane” insult to those facing the firing squad.

The Southeast Asian nation turned to virtual court hearings as Covid-19 restrictions shut down most in-person trials, including murder and drug trafficking cases, which can carry the death penalty. Since early last year, almost 100 inmates have been condemned to die in Indonesia by judges they could only see on a television monitor, according to Amnesty International. The Muslim-majority nation has some of the world’s toughest drug laws and both Indonesian and foreign traffickers have been executed, including the masterminds of Australia’s Bali Nine heroin gang.

This month, 13 members of a trafficking ring, including three Iranians and a Pakistani, learned via video that they would be shot for smuggling 400 kilograms (880 pounds) of methamphetamine into Indonesia. And on Wednesday a Jakarta court sentenced six Islamist militants to death using a video app over their role in a 2018 prison riot that left five members of Indonesia’s counter-terror squad dead. “Virtual hearings degrade the rights of defendants facing death sentences – it’s about someone’s life and death,” said Amnesty International Indonesia director Usman Hamid. “The death penalty has always been a cruel punishment. But this online trend adds to the injustice and inhumanity,” he added.

As for the fight against COVID-19 is concerned Indonesia is betting that China-made coronavirus vaccines can help it tackle one of the worst outbreaks in Asia. Beijing has promised poorer nations priority access to its inoculations, in an attempt to repair an image tarnished by the pandemic. This week, Indonesia received 1.2 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine made by China’s Sinovac, with another 1.8 million set to arrive next month, but experts say this access could have strings attached.

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M M Alam

M. M. Alam is a Pakistan-based working journalist since 1981. Karachi University faculty gold medalist Alam began his career four decades ago by writing for Dawn, Pakistan’s highest circulating English daily. He has worked for region’s leading publications, global aviation periodicals including Rotors (of USA) and vetted New York Times as permanent employee of daily Express Tribune. Alam regularly covers international aviation and defense-related events including Salon Du Bourget (France), Farnborough (United Kingdom), Dubai (UAE). Alam has reported thousands of events and interviewed hundreds of people in Pakistan, UAE, EU, UK and USA. Being Francophone Alam also coordinates with a number of French publications.