Thu, Feb 19, 2015 - Page 3 News List

War of words over Bali executions intensifies

BALI NINE:Tony Abbott’s admonishment that Jakarta should not forget Australia’s A$1 billion aid during the 2004 tsunami did not sit well with Indonesian officials

Reuters, JAKARTA and SYDNEY

Indonesia owes it to Australia not to execute two Australian drug offenders on death row, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said yesterday, ratcheting up a diplomatic war of words that is threatening to sour relations between the neighbors.

Australia has been pursuing an eleventh-hour campaign to save the lives of Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31, two members of the so-called Bali Nine, convicted in 2005 as the ringleaders of a plot to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia.

Indonesia has harsh penalties for drug trafficking and resumed executions in 2013 after five years.

Abbott urged Indonesia to remember the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, saying Australia would feel “grievously let down” if the executions proceeded despite the roughly A$1 billion (US$781 million) in assistance it rendered after the disaster that killed hundreds of thousands of people in Indonesia’s Aceh Province.

Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Armanatha Nasir told reporters in Jakarta he hoped Abbott’s statement did not “reflect the true colors of Australians.”

“Threats are not part of diplomatic language and no one responds well to threats,” he said.

Indonesia on Tuesday postponed the transfer of the two Australians and three other death-row inmates to another prison for execution, because of what authorities said were medical concerns and families’ requests for more time with the prisoners.

Abbott and UN Secretary-

General Ban Ki-moon have appealed to Indonesia not to execute prisoners for drug crimes. Also facing the death penalty in Indonesia for drugs are citizens of Brazil, France, Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria and the Philippines.

The two Australians were accused of being leaders of the Bali Nine, a group of nine Australians arrested in 2005 and convicted of attempting to smuggle 8kg of heroin to Australia.

Other members of the group have been sentenced to long prison terms.

Indonesia has defended its use of capital punishment, saying it is not targeted at any one country, but rather at what it considers an “extraordinary crime.”

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