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| Bali executions bad for Rudd, says embassy |
TOM ALLARD HERALD CORRESPONDENT IN JAKARTA February 18, 2010
(clockwise from top) Myuran Sulumaran, Scott Rush and Andrew Chan.
AUSTRALIAN embassy officials in Jakarta have told Indonesian authorities the possible executions of three of the Bali Nine is a highly sensitive issue for the Rudd government in an election year.
The representation was made by the embassy's political counsellor, Paul Griffiths, and comes as the three Australians, Scott Rush, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, prepare their final appeals against the death sentence.
If the appeals - known as a judicial review - fail, the only way for the three drug smugglers to avoid a firing squad is a direct plea for clemency to the President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Mr Griffiths and a colleague, Emily Street, met officials at the Indonesian attorney-general's office on Tuesday.
''They told us that it was a sensitive political issue ahead of the election,'' Didiek Darmanto, a spokesman for the attorney-general, told the Herald.
The talks also canvassed the extradition from Australia of an Indonesian corruption suspect, Adrian Kiki, who was arrested in Perth in 2008.
At least one Indonesian media outlet interpreted the meeting as the Rudd government tying Mr Kiki's extradition to the fate of the three Australians.
However, Mr Darmanto said he did not regard the representations by the Australian diplomats as improper.
Asked if Mr Griffiths directly urged that the trio not be executed for political reasons this year, Mr Darmanto said, ''No''.
''It was a courtesy meeting ,'' he said. ''It was not about intervening. They wanted to get information about how the Indonesian legal system worked.''
Mr Darmanto, who attended the meeting, said Mr Griffiths also asked to be informed of any developments involving the three Australians in a timely fashion, presumably to avoid the embarrassing situation that occurred in 2006.
Then, the Herald learnt before the embassy that an appeal by some of the Bali Nine for their life sentences to be reduced had failed. Instead the sentences were increased to the death penalty.
Since the Nine's arrests in April 2005, the governments of John Howard and Kevin Rudd have been quietly trying to ensure the death penalty is not carried out.
A Department of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman played down the meeting as a ''getting to know you'' courtesy call.
| No time is good for executions |
February 19, 2010
CAPITAL punishment is always going to be a subject around which our politicians and officials need to tiptoe cautiously. For one thing, it mainly comes up when Australian nationals are sentenced to death in foreign jurisdictions and thus automatically involves delicate negotiations with other governments anxious not to seem more lenient to foreigners than to their own citizens. For another, it risks stirring the sleeping dogs of debate about the death penalty here.
With three young Australians from the Bali Nine heroin-smuggling ring on death row in Indonesia, the government is right to keep in close contact with legal authorities in Jakarta about the progress of their cases. The fate of Scott Rush, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran is now heading to final judicial appeal and would then, if commutation is denied, move to requests for clemency from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
As we learnt last month, the Rudd government is sharing with Indonesian authorities the wider context of the arrest of the Bali Nine in April 2005, when there was a puzzling decision by the Australian Federal Police to ignore a policy that required operations to avoid putting Australians at risk of the death penalty. This is especially disturbing in the case of Rush, then a naive 19-year-old, whose father had alerted the police to his plans and claims to have been assured his son would be diverted from his stupid and criminal action.
Australian authorities were taken by surprise in 2006 when earlier appeals to an intermediate court against life sentences by four of the nine resulted in an upgrading of the penalty to death; that sentence has been commuted on final appeal in three cases. The news had emerged in the media before the Australian embassy was informed. Possibly it was to avoid any recurrence of such a news ambush that Australia's looming election was raised by embassy officials during a meeting with the Indonesian attorney-general's office, as one Indonesian official has reported in an unfortunate way.
It would be unthinkable for any Australian representative to link the timing of executions to the political timetable. The acting Foreign Minister, Simon Crean, has rebutted the suggestion - and as he said yesterday, any appeal for political favours would be made at a much higher level.
It may yet come to that, but for the moment the matter is not a political one, but a legal one. Within the options allowed them by law, Indonesia's top judges must weigh the death sentences against extenuating circumstances, co-operation with police since arrest and personal reform, and also against the lesser sentences given to the rest of the Bali Nine.
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