KIRSTY NEEDHAM -
March 9, 2010
Appeals ... President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, right, and the Australian prisoners (from top left) Sukumaran, Rush and Chan. Illustration: Harry Afentoglou
THE father of the Bali death row inmate Scott Rush has expressed cautious optimism that his son's case will be raised by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, in discussions with the man who may ultimately decide his fate.
Lawyers for Scott Rush will lodge a final appeal in the Indonesian Supreme Court this month, and an appeal for clemency to the President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, remains the last resort under the country's system.
''I think it is a worthwhile thing that the Prime Minister speaks to [Dr Yudhoyono] in regards to Australian citizens,'' Lee Rush said yesterday.
Lawyers and family of the three Bali nine convicts who face the death penalty were careful not to be seen to be seeking Australian political interference in the Indonesian legal process during Dr Yudhoyono's visit, fearing a backlash.
But should the appeals fail, they would be relying on the personal relationship between the two leaders, said Julian McMahon, the Melbourne barrister representing Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.
Dr Yudhoyono has previously said he would not grant clemency for drug trafficking death sentences, despite the many requests submitted to him.
Mr McMahon said the federal government had been very clear about its total opposition to the death penalty.
''Indonesia currently has a different view, but it is a matter often debated in Indonesia. I am hopeful that Indonesia may take a leadership role in the region in this debate in eventually bringing an end to the death penalty.''
Mr McMahon said Indonesia was going through a period of rapid improvement, legal and social reform, and the importance of prisoner rehabilitation was being taken seriously.
The legal team for Chan and Sukumaran has highlighted their ''striking personal reformations'' and positive influence while in Kerobakan prison in Bali, including running classes to teach other prisoners word processing.
Mr McMahon said they would soon lodge their final appeal and could not ask anything of the visiting president while the matter was before the courts.
''We can't expect the Prime Minister and President to be discussing the legal arguments at a time when the arguments are not yet finalised in the courts.''
However, should they lose all legal options, the lawyers and the Australian government would be asking Dr Yudhoyono ''after considering all the circumstances to extend some clemency to our clients''.
''At such a time, personal respect and friendship between leaders can be very important'', Mr McMahon said.
Mr Rush said it was still premature to be talking about the final step of clemency for his son and he was waiting for the appeal to be heard. He would not offer his opinion on the Indonesian legal process.
''Judging the leader of the country or its culture or their system is not a healthy thing for Australians to be doing that.''
A supporter of the Rush family, Father Frank Brennan, also cautioned against the death row appeal becoming a domestic political issue during Dr Yudhoyono's visit and called for ''respect for the Indonesian legal process''.
A lawyer who has previously acted for Scott Rush, Colin McDonald, said the relationship between the Australian and Indonesian governments was ''long past the stage where issues can't be discussed''.