Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose sent a letter to the president of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, Monday, pleading that he offer clemency to Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumara, two members of the Bali Nine—a group of nine people arrested in 2005 for allegedly planning to smuggle heroin out of Denpasar—and Mary Jane Veloso, a woman accused of smuggling the drug into the country. Chan, 21 at the time of his arrest, stood accused of being the group’s ringleader; Sukumara, 23 at the time of arrest, was allegedly his collaborator; the rest of the group are serving lengthy prison sentences for drug trafficking.
The Indonesian police caught four members of the group with more than eight kilograms of heroin strapped to their bodies at the Denpasar airport after receiving intel from the Australian Federal Police. Sukumara and three others were arrested at a hotel in the Kuta. Chan, named by the others as the group’s head, was detained boarding a flight to Sydney—he was carrying no drugs at the time of arrest.
Rose released his impassioned plea, according to Rolling Stone, because he was “quite upset with such injustice.” It is reprinted in its entirety below. Both men have since been executed by firing squad, but Veloso was spared after someone came forward, claiming to have recruited her as a drug courier and surrendered to the police. She remains in custody, and her potential release is pending her testimony in the case of the person who turned themselves in.
The full text of the letter is below.
April 27, 2015
President Joko Widodo
President of Republic of Indonesia
Jakarta Pusat 10110, Indonesia
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. In 2012 I and Guns N’ Roses were both fortunate and privileged enough to perform in your country in Jakarta for the Indonesian people where we enjoyed and were taken aback by the incredible warmth of the Indonesian fans during our performance and in meeting fans and people there wherever we went. It was a very special and exciting experience we are fortunate to have had and to have as fond memories. I would like to express our sincere thanks to your country for showing us such warm and enthusiastic hospitality.
The main concern of this correspondence is in regard to the impending executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran of the group referred to as the Bali Nine and of Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso. In following their stories in regard to particular comments made in their regard by the Attorney General of Indonesia that their efforts and those of their representatives through the courts “are just buying time” I feel with all due respect compelled to ask why a government official derides the efforts of anyone trying to save their own life or the lives of others through proper legal channels? And if or why the government of Indonesia condones such comments by its officials?
As all three are still alive these are clearly not cases where nothing can or should be done by those who care to do their utmost in efforts to spare them. Under the circumstances it would seem that if they are executed regrettably the Indonesian government becomes the more offensive criminal.
I appeal to you Mr. President, Mr. Joko Widodo to use your power in ways to strengthen international relationships between your country and others, to show your country’s strength and allow the world to witness an extraordinary act of humanity and bravery on yours and your country’s part.
To show each of us that there can be hope and true redemption in times of hopelessness and despair, that rehabilitation and turning one’s life around is not just for one’s place in what if any afterlife there may be or one believes in but here on this earth where it can do each of us the most good in this life now. Where true justice is better achieved in not killing, not ending the lives of and not destroying others but instead in this case, this situation, right now in this moment in your hands in sparing the lives of these two able bodied young men who’ve proven in the Indonesian prison system they are more than capable of being productive and positive contributors to society.
Their crimes were now long ago, their hearts and minds forever changed by their crimes, their trials, the hurt they’ve caused their loved ones, their countrymen, their rehabilitation, remorse, the lasting and deeply embedded fears of the crushing reality of very real and drastic life and death consequences and their deepest desires to become different and better people and if not to be forgiven to be shown mercy and given the opportunity to prove themselves.
In a world where the bad often outweighs the good and evil and negativity would appear more and more prevalent we need and can use every person choosing to make a difference however that choice came about that we can get, that we can save, that we can salvage and we can spare the lives of including those who have seen and learned from the errors of their ways and in doing so we show the entire world that we are capable of forgiveness and mercy, a much greater sense of courage, strength and humanity and being so much more than that which seeks to overcome and destroy us.
To not do so does not send as much a message of deterrence but rather a cold, cruel and uncaring message of hopelessness and blindness by the powers that be. Please do not be this type of man, this type of individual blinded by rigidity and inflexibility and ignoring your true power and wisdom by not acknowledging true change verified, witnessed and confirmed by virtually all who’ve been involved with either of these men during their incarceration.
It’s true I do not know these men nor have I met them but their story has touched me deeply. I as well as many others could easily have found ourselves in their unfortunate and unarguably self-inflicted position. People make mistakes, sometimes big and horribly regrettable mistakes and sometimes more importantly people learn from their mistakes and make new choices, strive and succeed at true positive change. To not acknowledge and give such change the opportunity to prove it’s value would seem in this case a greater crime than those originally committed.
This is clearly not a case of hardened, unrepentant, violent or greed driven killers with no regard for the lives of others. They are not con men lying and faking their behavior over all these years only to return to the people they once were and are no longer. That these individuals must die purely as an example to others is in my opinion akin to a kidnapper or terrorist killing hostages to make their point and have their demands met. In carrying out their death sentences the example shown here is one of draconian justice where the punishment in this stage of the condemned’s lives by virtue of their rehabilitation and genuine remorse over all these years no longer fits the original crime.
To kill these men under these conditions of their profound and proven change for the better seems a barbaric, backward and truly disgraceful act of pride, ego, fear and prejudice, prejudice against your own system and the souls of anyone who has committed what’s been deemed a crime from one day making amends and having the opportunity to make things right by how they live their lives and not how they are brutally and with disregard executed.
In the case and impeding execution of Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso executing those on the bottom rungs of the ladder in the chain of drug trafficking or those caught in the web of human trafficking who may not have had the luxury of qualified representation or even proper translators during their trial seems more than unfair and proves what? That a government chooses to condemn those that it would appear few if anyone truly cares about or has ever cared about to begin with? A mother who’s quite possibly sincere hopes of making a better life for her and her children have been destroyed in a tragic circumstance and with her execution only makes things worse for her family and the sorrow of those who do care that much greater.
I realize I am no one and no one to get involved with your affairs or those of your government and how this letter reads or anyone other than yourself thinks of it is irrelevant. Only the lives of these three human beings are what’s important now. That said I did not speak in jest or empty flattery when I spoke of how I and my organization were affected by the depth of warmth shown us by the Indonesian people during our performance and stay in Jakarta.
I ask you now to show such great depth of humanity and compassion now to these individuals and to deny your bloodlust in your war on drugs and grant clemency to these three individuals and give them a permanent stay of execution and to change the course of your own life and place in both your country’s and world history. No other can do what you alone have the power to do and that is the power to show benevolence and mercy where mercy can be truly appreciated and given it’s proper respect not only by the condemned but by the entire world and it’s many leaders.
Give them a chance to prove you right by living where their deaths at this stage can only prove tragic and by all involved avoidable and unnecessary. You’ve made your point and struck fear in both the hearts and minds of the condemned and anyone even remotely considering bad choices or already involved in those worlds. Their crimes were not committed on your watch. Life is the only thing important now, not death but life.
W. Axl Rose
U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry
U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia, Ambassador Robert O. Blake Jr.
Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Indonesia to the United Nations, His Excellency Mr.Rezlan Ishar Jenie
National Commission on Human Rights of Indonesia (Komnas HAM), Mr. Ifdhal Kasim, Chairman
Ambassador to the United States, Budi Bowoleksono