Fri, Mar 13, 2015 - Page 5 News List

Australia offers to pay pair’s jail time

FINAL CHALLENGE:Lawyers acting for the ringleaders of the ‘Bali Nine’ have mounted a final legal challenge to the president’s decision to reject their clemency pleas

AFP, SYDNEY

Protesters demand the government expedite the execution of death row prisoners convicted of drug trafficking in Nusakambangan, Indonesia, yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Australia has offered to pay the cost of life imprisonment for two drug smugglers on death row in Indonesia if they are spared the firing squad, as the pair’s latest appeal yesterday was put back until next week.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop made the offer in a letter to her Indonesian counterpart, Retno Marsudi, as Canberra explores all avenues to convince Jakarta not to execute Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

They are among several foreigners, including a Frenchman, a Brazilian, three Nigerians and convicts from the Philippines and Ghana, who could be shot dead any time for drug-related crimes.

Bishop suggested a prisoner swap with Indonesia in a tense telephone call with Marsudi on March 3, which was rejected, and in a followup letter said Canberra was willing to pay for the pair’s life imprisonment costs.

“As discussed, the Australian government would be prepared to cover the costs of the ongoing life imprisonment of Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran should a transfer not be possible,” Bishop wrote in the letter, released by her department. “The vast majority of Australians very strongly support the government’s efforts to seek clemency for Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran. We would not want to see their execution compromise the strong ties we have worked so hard to foster over many years.”

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir later in the day in Jakarta said that the offer of paying for the men’s imprisonment had been rejected.

“The death penalty has already been decided by the courts,” he said. “This is not a negotiation, a legal decision has been taken.”

Nasir added that Jakarta “regretted” that the details of the ministers’ communications appeared to have been leaked by Canberra, as “diplomatic norms dictate that we do not communicate or do our diplomacy through the media.”

Asked by reporters if Jakarta had given up listening to Australia because it was fed up with being told what to do, Bishop said: “We are not telling it what to do.”

“We are asking in the most respectful way that [Indonesian] President [Joko] Widodo show the same mercy and forgiveness and humanity to two Australians on death row as the Indonesian authorities ask of other countries who have Indonesian citizens on death row,” she said.

Sukumaran and Chan, ringleaders of the so-called “Bali Nine” drug trafficking gang, 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 have been moved to Nusakambangan, an island prison off Java, where their executions are due to take place.

Their lawyers have mounted a final legal challenge to Widodo’s decision to reject their pleas for clemency, claiming he failed to assess their rehabilitation or give reasons for his decision.

The Jakarta State Administrative Court yesterday adjourned the case until Thursday next week after the government’s legal team turned up without complete paperwork. State prosecutors need a letter of authorization to be able to present the president’s response to the Australians’ challenge, but the document had not been signed by the attorney general, as required.

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