Brazilian Catholic executed in Indonesia 'denied last rites'

Condemned prisoners only offered counseling from Buddhist, Muslim and Protestant clerics at the end
Brazilian Catholic executed in Indonesia 'denied last rites'

Indonesian police make Brazilian Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira (2nd right) hold a bag of cocaine during a press conference in Jakarta, August 20, 2003 (AFP Photo/Bay Ismoyo)

 

A 53-year-old Brazilian Catholic was denied last rites before he was executed by firing squad last month in Indonesia, according to an Oblate priest who provides religious counseling for death row inmates.

Father Charles Burrows of St Stephen Church in Cilacap district, Central Java, had counseled inmate Marco Archer Cardoso Moreira at Pasir Putih Penitentiary before he was transferred to an isolation cell in Besi Penitentiary ahead of his January 18 execution.

Moreira was sentenced to death in 2004 after attempting to smuggle 13.4 kilograms of cocaine into Indonesia.

The priest, popularly known as Father Carolus, said that after Moreira’s transfer he was asked by another Catholic priest offering counseling services in Besi Penitentiary to console Moreira prior to his execution.

Father Carolus says he then spoke with a prison official named Suwandi a day before the execution about administering last rites to Moreira.

“I maintained that a Catholic has the right to receive the Penance, Anointing of the Sick and Viaticum Sacraments before he is executed, and this is very important for a Catholic who will leave this world,” Father Carolus told ucanews.com on Monday.

A prison official offered an apology, saying it was the district court’s authority to provide such a religious counselor.

“He explained that there were already three religious counselors: Buddhist, Muslim and Protestant. But I told him that they couldn’t provide a Catholic with such rites,” the Irish-born priest said, adding that the Protestant offered Moreira counseling shortly before his execution.          

Father Carolus said that he later heard from other prisoners that Moreira wept when he was taken from his cell for execution.

“Marco said, ‘Help me! Help me!’ He even defecated in his trousers because he was so scared,” the priest said. “It was only his aunt who came to accompany him. He was very upset.”

Father Carolus sent letters expressing his concerns over the matter to the Brazilian embassy in Jakarta, the district court, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Bishop Julianus Kemo Sunarko of Purwokerto, the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference and the Vatican.

Embassy officials met with Father Carolus following Moreira’s execution to inquire about the denial of last rites.

“They were very disappointed,” he said.

Father Paulus C Siswantoko, secretary of the Indonesian Bishops’ Conference’s Commission for Justice, Peace and Pastoral for Migrant-Itinerant People, heavily criticized the failure to provide Moreira the last rites.   

“Every convict on death row has the right to receive counseling according to their own religion. In this case, Marco truly was subject to a human rights violation in the last minutes of his life. It’s very concerning that the state couldn’t provide [religious counseling],” he told ucanews.com.

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Saying that the Catholic Church will always fight against the death penalty for anyone and for any reason, he said the state must also protect convicts on death row.

Asked about religious counseling for a convict on death row, a district court official told ucanews.com that it was under the authority of the Attorney-General’s Office (AGO).

The AGO could not be reached for comment.

Indonesia resumed executions in 2013, four years after introducing a moratorium on the death penalty, citing a need for harsher penalties, in particular to deter drug smugglers.

Following last month’s executions of Moreira and five other drug smugglers, Indonesia plans to execute eight more drug traffickers including another Brazilian, Rodrigo Gularte.

On Friday, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff refused to accept the credentials of the Indonesian ambassador to demonstrate her anger at Moreira 's execution.

"We think it is important that there is an evolution in the situation in order to clarify the state of Indonesia's relations with Brazil," Rousseff said as she received the credentials of ambassadors from five other countries.

Rousseff said clearance for Indonesia's representative would be "held up a little" with Brasilia and Jakarta at loggerheads over the impending execution of 42-year-old Gularte, who has been on death row since 2004 for smuggling six kilos of cocaine into Indonesia in surf boards.

Gularte's family have tried without success to obtain clemency for him, saying doctors have classed him as paranoid schizophrenic, which would normally see him transferred to a psychiatric facility. Jakarta has twice turned down appeals for clemency.

Additional reporting by AFP

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