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9 face Indonesia firing squad despite pleas from Pacquiao, other celebs

CILICAP, Indonesia -- Ambulances carrying coffins arrived Tuesday at a prison island and relatives paid final visits to their condemned loved ones as Indonesia announced it will execute eight foreigners and one Indonesian man for drug crimes, despite an international outcry and pleas for mercy.

The nine inmates were given 72-hour notices over the weekend that they would be executed by a firing squad, prompting a flurry of last-minute lobbying by foreign leaders. The United Nations has argued that their crimes - ranging from marijuana possession to heroin trafficking - are not egregious enough to warrant the ultimate punishment.

Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo announced the executions would take place after midnight. The relatives were allowed to visit with the inmates until 8 p.m., said Tony Spontana, Prasetyo's spokesman.

"All the officials, prosecutors, firing squads and ambulances are in place," he told reporters.

Among the condemned are two Australians - Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31 - whose emotional families made what could be their last visit to Besi prison on Nusakambangan island, where the prisoners are scheduled to die.

Sukumaran's sister, Brintha, wailed in agony and had to be carried through a crowd of media waiting at the ferry port to the island.

Chan received a visit from Febyanti Herewila, an Indonesian Christian pastor who became his wife in a marriage ceremony on the island on Monday.

A dozen ambulances, nine carrying coffins, were driven onto the ferry to Nusakambangan. On the dashboard of one ambulance was a piece of paper bearing the name of Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipino woman who is among those scheduled to die.

Over the weekend, authorities asked the nine inmates - the two Australians and Veloso, as well as four Nigerian men and one man each from Brazil and Indonesia - for their last wishes and gave them a 72-hour notice of their executions.

On Tuesday, Australia's foreign minister defended Prime Minister Tony Abbott against online criticism that he had not done enough to save the lives of Sukumaran and Chan.

Australian actors including Geoffrey Rush, Guy Pearce, Joel Edgerton and Bryan Brown have launched an online video calling for Indonesia to show mercy to the two men.

"Tony, if you have any courage and compassion, you'd get over to Indonesia and bring these two boys home," actor Brendan Cowell said of the prime minister.

Cowell later apologized for the tone of his message in the video, Sky News reported.

"Apology if we came across desperate or ignorant. Just heart broken," Cowell tweeted on Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the Australian government was acting on advice from Australian diplomats in Jakarta who were part of a sustained campaign seeking a stay of execution.

"Clearly if traveling to Indonesia would make a difference, we would have gone there," Bishop told Nine Network television.

Abbott has spoken to Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo several times on the issue, most recently in Singapore in late March at the funeral of Lee Kuan Yew, the city-state's first prime minister, Bishop said.

"While they are still alive, there is still hope and I will continue to advocate all throughout today," Bishop said.

Prasetyo said Monday that another convict, Frenchman Serge Atlaoui, would not be executed with the others because he still has an outstanding legal complaint over the rejection of his clemency appeal.

Prasetyo said Atlaoui would later face a firing squad alone if his complaint is turned down by the Administrative Court. Similar appeals by Sukumaran and Chan were rejected by the Administrative Court and the High Administrative Court, with both ruling that clemency is the prerogative of the president.

The head of Europe's human rights watchdog on Tuesday urged Indonesia not to carry out the executions. The France-based Council of Europe holds its 47 member countries accountable to the European Convention on Human Rights, which opposes the death penalty.

"The death penalty is a terrible injustice which can never be put right," Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said in a statement. He urged Indonesia to refrain from the executions and "then to consider introducing a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to working towards abolition."

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III appealed to Jokowi on Monday to spare the life of Veloso, the Filipino drug convict, in a meeting on the sidelines of an annual summit of Southeast Asian leaders in Malaysia. He told reporters that he suggested to Jokowi that keeping Veloso alive would enable her to testify about those involved in the drug syndicate.

In Manila, hundreds of activists and supporters of Veloso continued a vigil outside the Indonesian Embassy.

Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao also appealed to Jokowi to spare Veloso's life.

"I am begging and knocking at your kind heart that your excellency will grant executive clemency to her by sparing her life and saving her from execution," Pacquiao said in a live interview from Los Angeles with Philippine network GMA News.

Veloso's two sons and her mother were seen arriving at the prison for a final visit.

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