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Virgin`s Branson calls for Indonesia death row clemency

Virgin chief Richard Branson Wednesday called on Indonesian President Joko Widodo to spare the lives of drug offenders due to be executed, saying the death penalty was a "failed deterrent" while offering to fly to Jakarta for talks.



Sydney: Virgin chief Richard Branson Wednesday called on Indonesian President Joko Widodo to spare the lives of drug offenders due to be executed, saying the death penalty was a "failed deterrent" while offering to fly to Jakarta for talks.

Several foreigners and Indonesians are due to be shot for drug-related crimes with Australia among countries pleading with Widodo to show mercy to their citizens.

They include Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, Frenchman Serge Atlaoui, Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte and Nigeria`s Raheem Agbaje Salami, who were moved to Nusakambangan island in recent days where they will face the firing squad.

Branson, a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, said in a letter to the Indonesian leader published on Virgin`s website that he was willing to fly to Jakarta to discuss the issue.

"We have done a lot of research into the war on drugs on a global basis," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation of the commission, which is chaired by former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

"And based on science and real studied research, we found that countries that still carry out executions for drug offences have not seen any significant shifts in supply and demand and the drug trade remains remarkably unaffected by the threat of capital punishment."

Branson said Portugal, which decriminalised drug use in 2001, was an example of how the issue could be tackled. Health experts have credited Portugal`s move as partly responsible for the drug addiction decline.

The plea for clemency came as Australian media reported that Sukumaran, 33, had made a personal appeal to Widodo by painting a portrait of the president, signing it "people can change".

Sukumaran and Chan, 31, started programmes that ranged from painting to photography in the decade they were held at Kerobokan jail in Bali after their arrests in 2005 as ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" drug smuggling gang.

Sukumaran`s brother Chinthu said Wednesday before visiting Nusakambangan that his family remained hopeful Widodo "will get to see how much Myuran and Andrew have done inside the prison to help the Indonesian people and that he will show mercy on our family".

In Branson`s letter, the airline boss and co-signatories Cardoso and former Swiss president Ruth Dreifuss, said they "feel strongly that the death penalty is an inhumane form of punishment that has been proven time and again to fail as a deterrent of crime".

"Mr. President, we hope you will consider our plea and spare (the death row convicts) this ultimate and irreversible punishment," they added.

"Granting clemency would be a humane and righteous act, and a first step towards sensible reform that could become a shining example for the entire Asian region."
 

From Zee News

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