Grim wait as Australians face prospect of Indonesian firing squad

Myuran Sukumaran, who runs art classes for inmates, painted these portraits of Andrew Chan and himself.

Story highlights

  • Final legal challenge to be filed to save Australians on death row in Indonesia
  • Supporters say the convicted drug smugglers are changed men who deserve a second chance
  • Indonesian President Joko Widodo has denied them clemency

(CNN)For several days after receiving a letter from the Indonesian president rejecting his plea for clemency, Myuran Sukumaran couldn't paint.

"I felt really sorry for him," said award-winning Australian artist Ben Quilty, who has been mentoring Sukuamaran, a convicted drug smuggler, in Bali's Kerobokan prison since late 2011.
    "But I also said, 'Myuran, what are you doing? Are you just going to sit around and wait for this? You've got nothing else to do, go back to work and start making paintings.'"
    Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan wait for trial,  October 8, 2010.
    So he did.
    In the last week or so, Sukumaran has thrown himself into his painting and the prison art classes he set up and leads five days a week.
    He knows that in the days or weeks ahead, he could be led out of his cell with Andrew Chan, his co-conspirator in a failed 2005 drug plot, blindfolded and shot by an Indonesian firing squad.

    Appeal for judicial review

    The men, now aged 33 and 31, can only wait and hope that a final legal bid succeeds in saving their lives. Later this week, the men's Indonesian lawyers hope to file what's known as a PK to request a second judicial review.
    Australian lawyer Julian McMahon said there's a "strong basis" for another review to be granted.
    Australian drug smuggler Myuran Sukumaran prior to his appeal, September 2010.
    "The first PK was filed four years ago and was eventually rejected, however, so the next step was the clemency process under the clemency law and the constitution," McMahon said.
    However, he said that while the matter was being considered by the offices of the previous and current president, the law changed to allow for a second judicial review.
    He said, "It's not appropriate to file a second judicial review while the matter is sitting with the president. Now, that the letters from the president have rejected clemency, that enables the second judicial review to be brought on."
    Lawyers will be pointing to evidence of the men's rehabilitation in prison. During their time behind bars, they've said to have become respected inmates who have built a support network for others around them.
    "They're both behaving in a very dignified way," McMahon said, who visited them in prison as recently as Wednesday morning.
    "They're looking after their families who are visiting and they're both working hard on the same things they've been doing for years; Myuran running an art class and Andrew running a prayer service."

    No presidential pardon

    President Joko Widodo has made it clear he won't be stepping in to save the pair -- the only two of the drug gang known as the Bali Nine who were sentenced to death.
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    Widodo told CNN's Christiane Amanpour earlier this week, "Every day we have 50 people die because of narcotics, of drugs. In one year, it's 18,000 people who die because of narcotics. We are not going to compromise for drug dealers. No compromise. No compromise."
    The last time Quilty visited Sukumaran in his prison art class, he said the talented painter had already worked out a succession plan so the classes would continue without him.
    "Last time I felt like he wasted an hour with me just talking through the logistics about how the classes would run if he's gone, which was very upsetting," Quilty said. "He pointed out to me in the class quietly who the strong artists were, with the most future in the art practice.
    "And he also introduced me to the two young Indonesian men who he's basically mentoring to take over his role if he's gone."
    Last weekend, the families of both men made a public appeal for their lives to be spared. "I'm confident that if (the Indonesian president) knows what they've done and how much they have changed, I'm sure he would not have the heart to order them to be executed," Myuran's mother, Raji Sukumaran, said tearfully.
    Raji Sukumaran visiting her son inside Kerobokan prison, January 27, 2015.

    Failed heroin plot

    The men were arrested in Bali in 2005 after Australian Federal Police told Indonesian authorities that they'd received a tip-off.
    Four couriers with heroin strapped to the bodies were arrested with Chan as they tried to leave Indonesia. Sukumaran was detained in a Kuta hotel with three others who had been enlisted as mules.
    On Thursday night, a candlelight vigil organized by Quilty will be held in Sydney's Martin Place as a show of support for the two prisoners. Musicians will perform in a concert called "Music for Mercy."
    Artist Ben Quilty standing in front of some of his paintings of soldiers in a Sydney art gallery, February 2013.
    Quilty said it's not an attempt to convince the Indonesian authorities to spare them -- "that's out of my hands" -- but a personal tribute to his friend, and to show Sukumaran that he and Chan are not alone.
    "It seemed like there was a very dark inevitability about what was going to happen to Myuran. And I thought, what can I do?"
    "I thought I can actually show the boys that there are people who care for them, just to give them a sense of dignity, I guess."