Indonesia is executing foreign criminals on a remote prison island -- and it's causing a lot of problems

In a state of “national emergency” over illicit drug use, Indonesia has angered other countries over its policy of executing foreign criminals.

Specifically, the country has been shipping criminals to Nusakambangan, a remote “prison island” in Central Java.

In January 2015 alone, Indonesia executed six people there, five of them foreigners, The New York Times reports. Sixty-four others, 58 of them from abroad, recently lost their final appeals.

Most notably, two Australian drug smugglers, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, were have been transferred there to be executed. The two were convicted in 2005 of being ring leaders of the “Bali Nine” — a group of nine Australians who attempted to smuggle 18 pounds of heroin into Australia from Denapasar Airport.

The men’s futures have ramped up tensions between Indonesia and Australia as well as many other countries. Outspoken prime minister Tony Abbott expressed his revulsion over the impending execution, saying Indonesia owes Australia a favour for the $US1 billion in aid sent during the 2004 tsunami. Indonesian citizens responded by gathering coins in the streets.

Australia, Brazil, and the Netherlands have since removed their ambassadors, and France has lodged a diplomatic protest, according to the Times.

Indonesia President Joko Widodo, however, sent a clear message. “Don’t interfere with the executions, because it is our right to exercise our laws,” he told reporters, according to the Times.

The island itself houses the country’s highest security prison, known to some as “Indonesia’s Alcatraz” — although inmates have access to healthcare and can participate in activities, like jewelry-making and gardening.

After multiple failed attempts at appeal, Sukumaran and Chan arrived Wednesday at Nusakambangan. Although Indonesia’s attorney general refused to confirm when the executions would occur, the two Australians are staged to die by firing squad with seven other foreigners, according to the Times.

Right now, 134 inmates await execution at Nusakambangan — 38 of them are foreigners, a spokesman for Indonesia’s penitentiary division told the Wall Street Journal.

Myuran Sukumaran Indonesia executing foreign prisonersREUTERS/Nyoman Budhiana/Antara FotoAustralian death row prisoners Andrew Chan (C) and Myuran Sukumaran (L) are seen in a holding cell waiting to attend a review hearing in the District Court of Denpasar on the Indonesian island of Bali, in October 8, 2010.

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