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30 November 2023

Australians on death row now on execution island

This file photo taken on February 14, 2006 shows Australians Andrew Chan (C-glasses) and Myuran Sukumaran (R), the ringleaders of the "Bali Nine" drug ring, being escorted by police to court for their trial in Denpasar, on Bali island. (AFP)


Two Australian drug smugglers in Indonesia were transferred Wednesday to an island where they will be executed, as the Australian leader said his country was "revolted" by their looming deaths after frantic diplomatic efforts to save them.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" drug smuggling gang, were woken early and given a few minutes to get ready before leaving Bali's Kerobokan jail in the early hours, said local justice ministry official Nyoman Putra Surya.

The men, sentenced to death in 2006 for trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia, said "thank you" before leaving, and "we handcuffed them and they were quiet", he added.

Michael Chan attempted to see his brother Andrew before the transfer but prison officials denied him entry, with Surya saying the decision was taken because "today is not visiting day".

About 200 police, 50 soldiers and a water cannon were stationed outside the Bali prison as the men, in their early 30s, were driven out, said an AFP reporter at the scene.

The pair were flown to Cilacap, on Java island, on a chartered commercial flight accompanied by military aircraft.

Two armoured vehicles escorted by elite police then boarded a boat at the local port which crossed to Nusakambangan island, home to several high security prisons and where the pair will be executed, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

Officials are yet to announce a date for their executions, but the transfer indicates it is imminent. Authorities must give convicts 72 hours notice before they are put to death.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has repeatedly called for Jakarta not to go ahead with the executions, said Australians were sickened by the developments.

"We frankly are revolted by the prospect of these executions," he said, adding that "right now millions of Australians are feeling sick in their guts".

Abbott said he hoped there might be a "change of heart in Indonesia", but added: "What I don't want, though, is to hold out false hope.

"There were some suggestions earlier that perhaps at least some people in the Indonesian system were having second thoughts. But I am afraid those signals seem to be dissipating."

Even so, he said, "I hope that even at this late hour, the better angels of the Indonesians peoples' nature will reassert themselves".

Infuriating international allies

The men recently lost their appeals for presidential clemency, typically a death row convict's last chance to avoid the firing squad.

The looming executions have strained ties with Australia, traditionally a key ally of Indonesia.
The pair are among a group of 10 drug convicts expected to face the firing squad in the upcoming batch of executions.

Officials have not confirmed the identities of the others, although convicts from France, Brazil, the Philippines, Nigeria and Ghana recently lost their appeals for presidential clemency.

Several countries have been piling diplomatic pressure on Jakarta, but President Joko Widodo has been a vocal supporter of the death penalty for drug traffickers, saying Indonesia is facing an "emergency" due to rising narcotics use.

Indonesia executed six people, including five foreigners, in January, sparking a diplomatic storm as Brazil and the Netherlands -- whose citizens were among those put to death -- recalled their ambassadors.

Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo said Tuesday that execution preparations were "95 percent" complete, and the last stage was gathering all the prisoners on Nusakambangan. Some of them are already on the island.

The Australians' lawyers have launched a series of last-ditch legal bids to try and stop the executions, and have urged authorities not to go ahead with the executions while the legal process is still ongoing.

Brazil and France have also been ramping up pressure, with Paris summoning Indonesia's envoy and the Brazilian president refusing to accept the credentials of the new Indonesian ambassador.

The family of the Brazilian, Rodrigo Gularte, say that he has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and should be in a psychiatric facility.

The Frenchman facing execution, Serge Atlaoui, has also applied for a judicial review of his sentence, and his wife said last week he was hopeful of success.