Indonesian President Joko Widodo insisted Saturday that the death penalty was “positive” for his country after the execution of seven foreign drug convicts by firing squad last month sparked international outrage.

Jakarta put to death two Australians, a Brazilian, and four Nigerians on a prison island, along with one Indonesian, despite worldwide calls for them to be spared and heartrending pleas from their families.

Canberra recalled its ambassador from Jakarta at what it called the “cruel and unnecessary” executions while the United Nations expressed deep regret.

However Widodo, who took office last year, has been unswayed by the international appeals, insisting that Indonesia is facing an emergency due to rising narcotics use.

In an interview Saturday with journalists in Abepura, eastern Indonesia, he voiced no regret at the executions and insisted: “The death penalty is still our positive law.”

Asked about the anger in other countries, he said: “My duty as president of Indonesia is to carry out the law and I’m sure other countries will understand this.”

And he added: “Every day 50 young Indonesians die, in one year that is 18,000 dead. I hope they understand about that.”

Widodo was referring to figures that he has often used to back up his claims about Indonesia’s drugs emergency, including claims that more than 4.5 million users are in need of rehabilitation.


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