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Priest relives firing squad deaths for court
Mark Forbes in Jakarta - smh.com.au - September 19, 2008

THE fate facing condemned Australian drug smugglers and the three Bali bombers was played out in grisly detail as the court hearing the bombers' death penalty challenge was yesterday given a firsthand account of an Indonesian firing squad.

A Catholic priest, Charlie Burrows, softly echoed the moans of the two Nigerian drug traffickers as their lifeblood ebbed away near midnight on June 26.

"They were moaning again and again for seven minutes," he told Indonesia's Constitutional Court. "I think it is cruel, the torture."

Desperate to provide some sort of consolation, Father Burrows sang Amazing Grace as the pair slowly died from their bullet wounds. They were pronounced dead 10 minutes after being shot.

Father Burrows was a late addition to the constitutional challenge, in place of the notorious East Timorese militia leader Eurico Guterres, whom the bombers had called to testify about the agony of being shot.

Their lawyer, Adnan Wirawan, said the Irish-born priest was chosen because he had witnessed firing squads, while Guterres "had just seen people shot".

Father Burrows painted a picture of the torch-lit scene of the execution, with police aiming M16 assault rifles at the prisoners' hearts from just a metre away. The pair had been strapped with tyre inner-tubes to wooden crucifixes "like mummies", he recalled.

The priest had joined a convoy from a Java prison just after 11pm on June 26 transporting the two Nigerians, Samuel Iwuchukwu Okoye, 37, and Hansen Antonious Nwaolisa, 40, to a remote location. The pair had been sentenced to death for smuggling more than three kilograms of heroin.

They were brought to a vacant field and tied to the two crucifixes. Their heads were covered with black cloth and doctors affixed a small black insignia above their hearts.

Father Burrows was told to come forward to pray with the men. "I told Antonious about the last time when Jesus was on the cross. I told him he should not worry, [that] if he repented, he would go to heaven. "He asked me to take out three things from his pocket, a handkerchief, 100,000 rupiah [$13] and a watch to be given to his wife."

Father Burrows was then asked to stand back.

Through his cloth mask, Nwaolisa continued to pray, then asked: "Father, are you still here?" Father Burrows said the prisoner asked him to remove his shoes, also to be given to his wife.

The shooting was then quickly ordered. "It was simple: one, two, three, then 'bang'," Father Burrows said. "The blood came out slowly; they were in pain. After 10 minutes, a doctor came to inspect them and pronounced them dead."

In a last-ditch effort to avoid execution, the bombers are claiming firing squads are a form of torture and are unconstitutional.

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