Two Australians convicted of drug smuggling may be executed by firing squad in Bali

Bali Nine executions: What you need to know

 

Newly installed Indonesian President Joko Widodo probably did not anticipate the searing migraine and diplomatic nightmare that two convicted drug traffickers from Australia would cause his administration.

You’ve probably seen heaps of headlines recently about the two Australians on death row since reports on them are exploding.

On February 12, orders were given from Jakarta transfer the pair to Indonesia’s “Alcatraz,” the prison island of Nusakambangan, central Java, where the executions are expected to take place. However, there’s still been no actual announcement of when these executions are supposed to happen.

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Australia has been steadfast in urging Indonesia to call off the executions and has been hinting hard that diplomatic relations between the two countries are in peril.

Now the world is waiting to see if and when Indonesia will go ahead and execute the Australians locked up in Bali’s infamous Kerobokan Prison despite mounting protests.

Back up, who are they?

To understand what’s happening now, we need to rewind to 2005 when a drug smuggling plot was foiled involving a group of nine Australians. Nicknamed the “Bali Nine.” The group was convicted for attempting to smuggle over eight  kilograms of heroin out of Bali.

Their ring leaders, Andrew Chan, 31, and Myuran Sukumaran, 33, were condemned with the death penalty in 2006, while the remaining seven got life sentences.

Chan and Sukumaran have since demonstrated serious efforts in their rehabilitation during their death row prison time in Bali.

Thought they would get clemency under SBY

That botched smuggling plot happened in 1995. Meaning, before this became Jokowi’s problem, it was previous Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s (SBY).

There was a general hope that SBY would commute Sukumaran’s and Chan’s death sentences, given his history and demonstrated desire to keep diplomatic relations healthy with Australia throughout his presidency.

But those hopes were squashed when SBY left office in 2014 before hearing their appeals.

Jokowi’s hardliner approach, death penalty as “shock therapy” for drug traffickers

Jokowi and other high-ups in his administration have made it crystal clear in the past few months that they will not play when it comes to dealing with drug traffickers.

Jokowi said in December 2014 that capital punishment is important “shock therapy” for drug traffickers who have “destroyed the future of the nation,” suggesting that he will not be merciful to those on death row for drug cases.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian president has come under fire recently for using faulty statistics to illustrate Indonesia’s “drug crisis” and justify his tough stance on drug cases.

Jokowi has been citing data of 50 drug-related deaths a day and 18,000 per year, but apparently those numbers are based on a survey of people asked about drug-related deaths, not on an actually study.

Sukumaran’s plea for clemency rejected, but fate reliant on Chan’s

Sukumaran got hand delivered a letter at Kerobokan Prison on January 7, with Jokowi’s letterhead postmarked December 30, formally rejecting his bid for clemency.

The text reportedly read that there is “not enough reason” for the president to offer up clemency and emphasized that “the decision is in effect on the day it is decided.”

Indonesia’s Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo spoke publicly about how Sukumaran’s fate would hinge on Chan’s in that the two should be executed together, though he did not say when exactly that would be.

In line with the attorney general’s statements, Chan later received news of his own clemency bid being rejected while he was teaching cooking classes on January 22 in the prison.

Both Australians are to be executed along with eight other prisoners. On February 2, following a state visit to the Philippines, it was reported that the execution of the death row inmate from the Philippines was deferred after the Philippine government sought review of her case.

Last-ditch attempt at appeal

Even after Sukumaran and Chan had both been denied presidential pardons from Jokowi, their legal team was not ready to give up.
The pair’s lawyers played a “last-ditch” effort attempt to avoid execution by filing a PK, an appeal based on a controversial Indonesian Constitutional Court ruling that allows prisoners to submit further appeals as more evidence is added.

However, Indonesia’s attorney general was adamant that no PK could be filed once the pair’s appeals were formally rejected and Denpasar District Court eventually tossed out their PK application.

Where does this leave us?

Case in point that Jokowi is a man of his word: six drug violation offenders, including one Indonesian citizen and five foreigners, faced the firing squad on January 18. The executions sparked some diplomatic backlash for Indonesia, with the Netherlands and Brazil recalling their ambassadors.

However, while Jokowi received a lot of heat for having those six executed, it’s the two Bali Nine inmates that seem to have most grasped social media’s attention and landed world headlines.

Perhaps it’s because they’ve been a type of infamous celebrity since they were arrested, perhaps it’s because they’ve given the most interviews with press, perhaps it’s their deft use of social media to communicate with their supporters, or better yet, it could just be their apparently heart-wrenching attempts at rehabilitation.

To us, it seems like a combination of all these factors that have our eyes glued to these two men and the developments with their cases.

Indonesia outdated on human rights

While some overactive Facebook users on the Bali Expats page seem to be demanding “off with their heads” and calling for blood, Sukumaran’s and Chan’s impending executions seem to have prompted people to question whether the death penalty is actually humane or not.

Moreover, a former chairman of Indonesia’s Constitutional Court even says he had wanted to spare the pair’s lives and saw Indonesia’s stance on capital punishment inconsistent. “Global humanitarian values have changed,” he said.

Diplomatic Relations with Australia

Even though Australian PM Tony Abbott had previously said that execution the Bali Nine duo would not jeopardize the critical Australian-Indo relationship, he seems to have changed his tune.

Both he and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have been making public statements like crazy, urging Jokowi to reconsider executing the two Australians and warning Indonesia of backlash.

Millions of Australians feel sickened by the pending executions, according to Abbott. Bishop has also said that Australians, certainly the largest foreign tourist population in Bali, could boycott Indonesia if Jokowi goes through with the executions.

Rehabilitation: Back to the Bali Nine pair themselves

Other than the international political ramifications of the impending execution of these Bali Niners, the two death row inmates’ attempts at rehabilitation are central to the story.

The two have publicly apologized for their crimes and say they regret what they have done, but with them it’s actions that speak louder than words, especially with Sukumaran.

Chan has turned to his faith during his time in prison and states dreams of teaching hospitality classes. Sukumaran has delved into portrait painting and amped up Kerobokan Prison’s art program, even helping other prisoners find redemption and rehabilitation through art.

Locked up, with little they can do, the two have started a “mercy campaign,” begging for supporters’ prayers and signatures on a petition that would go to Jokowi and Abbott.

Yesterday, their families were reportedly presented with a petition signed by more than 150,000 people urging clemency.

When it’s all said and done, their story has many asking, does rehabilitation even matter? If Chan and Sukumaran sincerely feel remorse for their crimes, will not repeat offend, and are resolved to change society for the better (as their statements suggest), what else should they have done?

Julian McMahon, a lawyer from the pair’s legal team says it appears that the administration isn’t differentiating between all drug offenders on death row.

“I was astonished to hear that all 64 drug offenders on death row were to be treated the same, as if it’s a rubber stamp process,” the attorney said.

Though Sukumaran himself said it best: ”Is there no such thing as rehabilitation??? Can’t someone change????”

Photo at the top from “Friends of Myuran Sukumaran” Facebook page

RELATED

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Australia vows to exhaust all options to save Bali drug smugglers

Australians could boycott Indonesia over executions: FM

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