Executed Brazilian convict unaware he was going to be shot until chained

The Brazilian drug convict who was executed in Indonesia this week was unaware he was going to die until he was chained and led to a shooting range to be shot, a priest who counseled him said Thursday.  

Rodrigo Gularte, 42, was among eight people executed on Wednesday on Indonesia’s Nusakambangan penal island for drug trafficking. His family said he was mentally ill and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia as a teenager.

“He didn’t realize he was being executed until he was chained,” said Charlie Burrows, a priest who witnessed the execution.

“He said to me: ‘Father, am I being executed?'” he told The Parrot by phone. “I told him: ‘I’ve been explaining to you what’s happening’.”

The reality sank in as he was tied to the wooden cross along with seven other prisoners, including two Australians, four Nigerians and an Indonesian.

“This is not right. I don’t deserve death. I should be punished but not by the death penalty,” Burrows quoted Gularte as saying in his final minutes.

Burrows said Gularte had been hearing voices telling him that would be fine and that he would return to Brazil next year.

Burrows said the convicts refused to be blindfolded, sang Salvation Army hymns and then Amazing Grace before the bullets hit their chests and killed them.

“They were all trying to show strength,” said Burrows, who has lived in Indonesia for more than 40 years. “There were no screams.”

Indonesia has drawn international criticism for the executions.

Australia, Nigeria, Brazil as well as the United Nations, the European Union and international rights groups have condemned Indonesia’s refusal to grant the convicts clemency.

Responding to criticism, Indonesian President Joko Widodo warned foreign countries against interference in its “legal sovereignty.”

“Our legal sovereignty must be respected, just as we respect the legal sovereignty of other countries,” Joko was quoted as saying on Wednesday by the Sindo daily. 

“I don’t want to say it over and over again,” he said.

Australia withdrew its ambassador in protest at the “cruel and unnecessary” execution of its nationals Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who were the subject of repeated appeals for clemency from Australian leaders.

A ninth convict, a Philippine mother of two named Mary Jane Veloso, received a reprieve at the last minute after a woman who was allegedly tricked her into trafficking drugs surrendered in her home country on the day she was due to be executed. 

The Attorney General’s office said it had rejected a request by Philippines to allow Veloso to travel to her home country to testify in the case involving her alleged recruiter. 

“We offered them alternatives. She can make a sworn statement here, or testify via a video link,” said Attorney General spokesman Tony Spontana. 

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