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Leader: Australia tried to stop 2 executions in Indonesia

February 4, 2015

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s prime minister on Thursday said his government had done everything it could to save the lives of two Australian heroin traffickers on death row in Indonesia.

Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31, learned this week that their applications for judicial reviews of their death sentences have been rejected.

Australia, which has abolished capital punishment, had backed the pairs’ failed application to Indonesian President Joko Widodo for clemency.

“We’re not going to engage in last-minute megaphone diplomacy, but I just want to assure people that the Australian government has left no stone unturned to try to ensure that these two Australians on death row have their sentences commuted,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters.

Indonesia said this week it was preparing to execute by firing squad eight drug smugglers, including the two Australians.

The pair were the ringleaders of a group of nine Australians who were arrested in 2005 for attempting to smuggle 8.3 kilograms (18.3 pounds) of heroin to Australia from the tourist island of Bali.

The group has been dubbed the “Bali Nine” by Australian media. All have been convicted of drug smuggling but only two were sentenced to death.

The pair’s Australian lawyer, Julian McMahon, said Australian police tipped off the Indonesian police who made the arrests. Therefore the Indonesians should grant Australia’s request to spare their lives.

“The fact that the Australian police are involved should actually be of great assistance to my clients now as leverage in dealing with the Indonesian authorities, but it looks like that’s not working,” McMahon told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio on Thursday.

McMahon said the Indonesian Supreme Court should uphold a Constitutional Court ruling that prisoners who are rehabilitated after spending a decade on death row should have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.

“If the merits of that case were looked at, my clients would not be executed,” McMahon said.

“Unfortunately they are being caught up in a bigger debate which starts with the headline: we’re going to kill 64 people on death row if they’ve been convicted of drugs” offenses, he said.

Lawyers were continuing to investigate legal options to save the Australians’ lives, McMahon said.

“There’s no doubt the situation is bleak,” he said.

Indonesia has extremely strict drug laws. On Jan. 18, it executed six drug convicts including foreigners from Brazil, Malawi, Nigeria, the Netherlands and Vietnam, brushing aside last-minute appeals by foreign leaders.

More than 130 people are on death row, including 57 drug convicts and two convicted terrorists.

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