Tue, Mar 10, 2015 - Page 5 News List

‘Bali Nine’ families allowed visit

FIRING SQUAD:Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott continued pushing to block the executions yesterday as an uncertain deadline approached for the Australians

AFP, CILACAP, Indonesia

Helen Chan, left, and other family members of Australian death row prisoners Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran leave after visiting the two prisoners in Nusakambangan prison, off Central Java, Indonesia, yesterday.

Photo: AFP

The families of two Australian convicted drug smugglers facing imminent execution in Indonesia visited them yesterday for the first time on a prison island where they are to be put to death.

Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, the ringleaders of the so-called “Bali Nine” drug trafficking group, were sentenced to death in 2006 for trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia.

They recently lost their appeals for presidential clemency, typically the final chance to avoid the firing squad, and are expected to be executed soon with other foreign drug convicts.

The men, in their early 30s, were moved last week from their prison on Bali to Nusakambangan prison island off Java, where the executions are to take place. Australia has mounted a sustained diplomatic campaign to stop the executions.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott issued a fresh appeal yesterday, saying: “We respect Indonesia’s sovereignty, of course, we respect Indonesia’s system, of course. However, we think it is right and proper that Indonesia should look to its own long-term best interests and its own long-term best values.”

Earlier yesterday, the men’s relatives arrived at Cilacap, the port town on Java that is the gateway to Nusakambangan, as they headed to see them.

“We are fairly excited to go see Andy today,” Andrew’s brother, Michael, told reporters. “It has been a few days. We are just looking forward to see him when we get over there, giving him a hug.”

Sukumaran’s brother, Chinthu, said he and his mother, Raji, and sister, Brintha, “have been waiting, counting down the days.”

“We have been told he is doing well, so we just want to see him for ourselves, just to make sure, and let him know that we love him,” he added.

The families, escorted by consular officials, were expected to spend several hours on the island before returning to Cilacap.

Foreign drug convicts from France, Brazil, the Philippines, Nigeria and Ghana also recently lost their appeals for presidential clemency, and are expected to be executed at the same time as the Australians on Nusakambangan.

The Australians, a French convict, Serge Atlaoui, and a Filipina, Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, are all mounting legal challenges to their sentences, although Indonesian officials insist that an appeal for presidential clemency is a death row convict’s final chance to avoid execution.

A lawyer for Chan and Sukumaran said at the weekend that a court would on Thursday hear the latest legal appeal by the pair. They had sought to challenge Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s decision to reject their pleas for clemency — but a Jakarta court last month dismissed that bid.

Their lawyers have now lodged an appeal against that decision.

Widodo, who took office in October last year, has been a vocal supporter of the death penalty for drug convicts, saying that Indonesia is facing an “emergency” due to rising narcotics use.

He said in an interview broadcast at the weekend that he might be open to abolishing capital punishment, but only in the future and if the public backed the move.

The president has refused to change course despite appeals from Australia, France and Brazil. In his comments yesterday, Abbott also said that Chan and Sukumaran had been “thoroughly rehabilitated and reformed” during a decade behind bars.

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