Australians set to face Indonesian firing squad despite pleas for mercy

Execution delayed for 'Bali Nine' pair
Execution delayed for 'Bali Nine' pair

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Execution delayed for 'Bali Nine' pair 02:41

Story highlights

  • Two Australians on death row will be executed despite pleas from Canberra government
  • One of their mothers questions why Indonesia calls for mercy for its citizens abroad on death row, while sentencing foreigners at home
  • Australian police role in the Bali 9 case has been criticized

Sydney, Australia (CNN)Indonesian authorities remain on course to execute two Australians for drug trafficking, despite pleas for leniency made by the government in Canberra and six former prime ministers.

Australia's second longest serving premier, John Howard, said: "Mercy being shown in such circumstances would not weaken the deterrent effect of Indonesia's strong anti-drug laws," while Kevin Rudd, who served as premier on two occasions, said: "As a deep, long-standing friend of Indonesia, I would respectfully request an act of clemency." Julia Gillard, Bob Hawke, Malcolm Fraser and Paul Keating all followed suit in a united plea to Indonesia's president.
    Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, members of the so-called "Bali Nine," were sentenced to death in 2006 and after several failed legal appeals and two denials of clemency, their execution by firing squad may now be close.
    Bali's Kerobokan prison was given permission this week to move Sukumaran and Chan to a maximum security facility on the island of Nusa Kambangan to have their sentence carried out. But the transfer has now been delayed due to "technical reasons." On Friday, Agence France-Presse quoted the vice president's office as saying the executions will be delayed for up to a month.
    The two men were among five inmates scheduled to be transferred, Tony Spontana, a spokesman for the Indonesian attorney general's office, told CNN.
    Spontana said requests from Australian officials for the families to spend more time with the prisoners had been granted. He also said one of the prisoners, a Brazilian, needs medical attention. Spontana added that there was an issue with the holding cell at the prison where the executions would take place.
    The inmates will be transferred when those issues are resolved, he said.
    Perhaps fearing a boycott, national carrier Garuda Airlines has said it would not be involved in their transportation.
    Most observers believe the executions will proceed despite a last minute appeal to Indonesia's Administrative Court and a new claim that the 2006 trial judges offered a lighter sentence in exchange for a bribe.
    Indonesia President: 'No compromise' for drug executions
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    Mother: 'Please help'

    And this hasn't gone down well in Australia.
    Speaking on Monday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott asked Indonesia to reconsider their position on Sukumaran and Chan, considered the ringleaders of the Bali Nine -- a group of nine Australians who failed in a bid to smuggle more than eight kilograms of heroin back to their country in 2005.
    "Well, what we understand is that there are still legal options available to these two Australians and their legal teams and we certainly appreciate that the Indonesian government doesn't normally go ahead with executions of this type, while there are legal options still available and that's what we're saying to the Indonesian government," he said.
    At the weekend, Abbott struck a more combative tone when he told The Bolt Report on the TEN television network "we will be finding ways to make our displeasure felt."
    He did not detail what the government intended to do.
    "What we are asking of Indonesia is what Indonesia asks of other countries when its citizens are on death row, and if it's right for Indonesia to ask and expect some kind of clemency, it's surely right for us to ask and expect some kind of clemency," he said.
    It's also a point that the mothers of the two men, Raji Sukumaran and Helen Chan struggle to comprehend.
    "They are helping the Indonesian citizens overseas who are on death row and what is the difference between my son and these people overseas?" Sukumaran told reporters in Jakarta, where she had sought the help of Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights.
    Amnesty International condemns drug-related executions
    Amnesty International condemns drug-related executions

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    "I don't want my son murdered. Please help."
    But on Tuesday, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told CNN that Australia should not interfere with Indonesian law and policy.
    "Although we understand the position of the Australian government ... it should be underlined that this issue is purely a law enforcement issue. Law enforcement against extraordinary crime. Law enforcement by a sovereign country, Indonesia," she said.
    "Both Indonesia and Australia have wide ranging cooperation in many fields -- political, security, trade and investment, as well as sociocultural and people to people.
    "Bilateral relations between two counties should be based on mutual respect and mutual benefit. Indonesia is committed this principle."

    Australia's role in case

    Meanwhile, the Australian Federal Police has been criticized for its part in the case.
    Speaking to media in Sydney last week, AFP Deputy Commissioner Graham Ashton admitted the role his force played in the 2005 Bali arrests of the nine but denied it was responsible for what then transpired.
    Instead of stopping one of the convicted drug mules, Scott Rush, from traveling to Bali -- which had been the request of his parents -- the AFP alerted its counterpart, the Indonesian National Police of his intentions. It offered the names of the conspirators, some of whom had been on the AFP's radar.
    "The AFP had no evidence or lawful reason to detain, much less arrest or charge, any member of the Bali Nine before their departure from Australia," the AFP noted in a February 7 statement.
    It also explained it could not limit "its cooperation to countries that have similar legal systems as Australia." The AFP is not compelled to answer requests for information about Australians from countries where the death penalty might be imposed, but there are no guidelines to stop it volunteering information, as it did with the Bali Nine.

    Rehabilitation claimed

    Sukumaran and Chan have become model prisoners during their time behind bars, according to fellow inmates and the jail's chief warden. Sukumaran is studying fine arts and has set up a class for fellow inmates. Chan has found spirituality, which he uses to counsel inmates with drug problems.
    Their rehabilitation is genuine, Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said.
    "Andrew and Myuran are the model of what penal systems the world over long to achieve," Bishop told the Australian Parliament last week.
    The foreign affairs spokesperson for the opposition Australian Labor Party, Tanya Plibersek delivered a personal account of what it means to be given a second chance.
    Long before she met her husband, he'd been convicted in Australia of conspiracy to import heroin from Thailand where the death penalty applies to such crimes. Aged 19, Michael Coutts Trotter was sentenced to nine years in prison but released after three. He is now one of the most respected public servants in state of New South Wales and the father of three children, all of which might not have been, said Plibersek.
    "I feel a genuine debt of gratitude," Michael Coutts Trotter told CNN.
    "So like it or not, you have to accept a deeper sense of responsibility to try to make something useful of your life to repay the trust people have invested in you," said Coutts Trotter, the current Secretary of the Department of Family and Community Services.

    What may happen next

    Short of a miracle, redemption is not a gift likely to be offered to Sukumaran and Chan.
    If last-minute appeals fail, Sukumaran and Chan will be allowed a few final choices: whether to stand or kneel, wear a blindfold or face the 12 man firing squad, one or more of whom will kill them.
    The hashtag, #BoycottBali trends in Australia whenever news of the men's plight features in the media.
    While Chan's parents have now left Bali, Sukumaran's will stay to the end. As they prepare for what appears inevitable, it is surely little comfort for them to know that according to the Sydney Morning Herald, the man police suspect was the mastermind of their son's trafficking enterprise is reportedly living a life of luxury in Sydney.
    He was investigated but escaped prosecution and is believed to have won U.S. $3.89 million in a lottery just after the young Australians were convicted.
    His fortunes stand in stark contrast to that of Sukumaran and Chan.