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Australians on Indonesia death row arrive on execution island

Officials have yet to announce a date for their executions but the transfer indicates it is imminent.
A file picture of Australian Andrew Chan, right, and Myuran Sukumaran, centre, talking to their lawyer before their final appeal against their death sentence at Denpasar District Court in Bali, Indonesia on October 8, 2010.  Made Nagi/EPA
A file picture of Australian Andrew Chan, right, and Myuran Sukumaran, centre, talking to their lawyer before their final appeal against their death sentence at Denpasar District Court in Bali, Indonesia on October 8, 2010. Made Nagi/EPA

CILACAP, INDONESIA // Two Australian drug smugglers were taken to an Indonesian island on Wednesday where they will be executed despite frantic diplomatic efforts to save them.

Prime minister Tony Abbott said Australia was “revolted” by their looming deaths.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the so-called Bali Nine drug smuggling gang, were woken and given a few minutes to get ready before leaving Bali’s Kerobokan jail in the early hours, said 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.

“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 Mr Surya saying the decision was taken because “today is not visiting day”.

More than 200 police and soldiers as well as water cannon were stationed outside the Bali prison as the men, in their early 30s, were driven off.

The pair were flown to Cilacap on Java island.

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, where the pair will be executed, a witness said.

The men recently lost their appeals for presidential clemency, typically the last chance to avoid the firing squad. Officials have yet to announce a date for their executions but the transfer indicates it is imminent.

Mr Abbott, who has repeatedly called for Jakarta not to proceed with the executions, said Australians were sickened by the developments.

“We frankly are revolted by the prospect of these executions,” he said.

Mr Abbott said he hoped there might be a “change of heart in Indonesia”.

He added: “What I don’t want, though, is to hold out false hope.”

However, he said: “I hope that even at this late hour, the better angels of the Indonesian peoples’ nature will reassert themselves.”

Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop said she had spoken to the families of Chan and Sukumaran who were “devastated”. The two men are among several drug convicts, including foreigners from France, Brazil, the Philippines, Ghana and Nigeria, who have lost their clemency requests and are expected to be put to death at the same time on Nusakambangan soon.

Several are already on the island awaiting execution, including a Nigerian who was also transferred on Wednesday. A Philippine woman, whose legal challenge to her sentence is currently being heard, is due to be transferred from central Java.

Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo said final preparations, such as training the firing squads, were still being made before a date could be set for the executions. Authorities must give convicts 72 hours’ notice before they are executed.

President Joko Widodo has been unswayed by the barage of international appeals, insisting that Indonesia is facing an “emergency” due to rising narcotics use.

Mr Prasetyo reiterated the government’s tough line.

“We want to ... send a message to all parties and to the international community that Indonesia is working hard to battle drug crimes,” he said. 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.

* Agence France-Presse

Published: March 4, 2015 04:00 AM

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