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A Filipina Woman Shares How She Ended Up on Indonesia's Death Row for Drug Trafficking

Mary Jane (right) is reunited with her mother (left) during a prison visit in 2013. Photo from Migrante

Mary Jane (right) is reunited with her mother (left) during a prison visit in 2013. Photo from Migrante

A Filipina worker facing the death penalty in Indonesia for drug smuggling has narrated the story of how she ended up in jail.

Mary Jane Veloso was arrested in 2010 in Indonesia after airport authorities found 2.6 kilos of heroin in her luggage, and the Indonesian Supreme Court sentenced her to die. She says she agreed to carry a suitcase without knowing what was inside.

Her story received little attention in the Philippine press in the past five years, but this changed when migrant groups appealed for a review of her case and when global groups urged Indonesia to reconsider its decision to carry out the death penalty for all drug-related cases.

A verbatim transcript of handwritten account of Mary Jane's case was shared by her sister. In broken English, she explained her reasons for leaving the country in 2010:

I’m work to Dubai United Arab Emirates. I’m there as a servant and my contract is two years. But I’m there for 10 months because have someone want to rape me, I decided to come back to Philippines on December 31, 2009, I’m comeback to my country but my money was not enough because my son already go to school… I need to work again…

Her neighbor, Christine, promised her work in Malaysia. But when Christine and Mary Jane arrived in Malaysia, Mary Jane was told that she had to meet someone first in Indonesia before she could   start working:

She said to me Im go to Indonesia in 7 days for Holiday In and meet a friends and if im comeback to Malaysia Kuala Lumpur Im start to my work.

So I don’t have any choice that I must go there and that time only in my mine… If im finish go to Indonesia im start to my work, because work is important to me, because of my child…

In Indonesia, she was stopped by authorities after drugs were found in her luggage. This was her reaction:

My body feel so cold… I can’t speak any thing… only I do that time… cry and cry!!! Because I know my life finish. Because drugs is no. 1 illegal… I hate myself why I believe with Christine… Why I don’t have negative thinking about her… and now I’m here… But I don’t know anything.

Mary Jane's family was interviewed in this video, who maintain that she left the country to work and not to smuggle drugs:

After learning her story and investigating her case, migrant groups believe that Mary Jane is a victim of human trafficking. Thus, they are appealing the Indonesian government to reconsider her case. Migrante sent this letter to the Indonesian president:

We believe that Mary Jane was a victim of large drug syndicates who take advantage of the unawareness, vulnerability and desperation of our people. We are pained that she has been meted the death penalty while the big true drug operators and syndicates go on with wild abandon.

The International Association of Democratic Lawyers, a UN-accredited group, also thinks that Mary Jane was denied due process because she was not given immediate legal representatives and professional translators:

Ms. Veloso was forced by economic circumstance to seek work outside of her country. Her intention was not to smuggle heroin into Indonesia. She only found out that was used to smuggle the contraband after arrival and arrest. Her sole intention was to find employment. Ms. Veloso did not receive sufficient legal services or the right to translators, and had no legal representation at all stages of their trials.

Mary Jane's parents appeal for clemency during a visit to the Indonesian Embassy in Manila. Photo from Facebook

Mary Jane's parents appeal for clemency during a visit to the Indonesian Embassy in Manila. Photo from Facebook

Indonesia has denied all appeals to reverse the death penalty conviction for drug-related crimes. It said that it is necessary to win the war against the drug cartels, which have made Indonesia their drug trafficking hub.

Meanwhile, Filipino migrant groups all over the world, human rights lawyers, and some Indonesian civil society members are stepping up the efforts to save the life of Mary Jane.

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