Indonesia rejects prisoner swap to save death row Australians

Agence France-Presse
Indonesia rejects prisoner swap to save death row Australians
Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo insisted the executions would go ahead and that the offer from Australia was 'not relevant'.

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia on Thursday rejected the offer of a prisoner swap proposed by Canberra in an 11th-hour bid to save two Australian drug smugglers facing execution, saying it is determined to put to death those “who have poisoned our nation”.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the so-called “Bali Nine” drug trafficking gang, could be shot within days after being moved on Wednesday to the Indonesian island where they are due to face a firing squad.

Authorities must give convicts 72 hours’ notice before they are executed and in a last-ditch effort to save them Foreign Minister Julie Bishop proposed a prisoner swap.

(READ: Australia floats prisoner swap)

She said she had spoken to her counterpart Retno Marsudi in what was reportedly “a very tense phone call”.

“I’ve spoken to her on a number of occasions about this, and I wanted to explore any other avenues or opportunities to save the lives of these two young men who have been so remarkably rehabilitated,” Bishop told ABC radio.

She said that she had noted there were Australian prisoners in Indonesia and Indonesian prisoners in Australia, and raised the possibility of an exchange of inmates. 

However, Indonesia’s Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo insisted the executions would go ahead and that the offer from Australia was “not relevant”.

“Are you willing for people who have poisoned our nation to be exchanged?” he said.

“That has never been carried out, and never thought of.”

Security Minister Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno also insisted the executions would go ahead. 

President Joko Widodo has been a vocal supporter of the death penalty for drug traffickers, saying that Indonesia is facing an “emergency” due to the rising use of narcotics.

Global implications

The Sydney Morning Herald had reported that any deal could involve three Indonesians in prison in Australia over their role in an infamous 1998 drug bust.

They were named as Kristito Mandagi, Saud Siregar and Ismunandar, the captain, chief officer and engineer respectively of a boat carrying 390 kilograms (860 pounds) of heroin that was seized near Port Macquarie, some 400 kilometres (250 miles) north of Sydney.

Bishop’s comments followed an impromptu bipartisan candlelight vigil for the pair outside the country’s parliament in Canberra early Thursday, also attended by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, opposition Labor leader Bill Shorten and dozens of MPs.

Abbott, who on Wednesday expressed revulsion at the looming deaths, said he had requested a final telephone call with Widodo to again push for the men to be spared. 

“I can’t guarantee that the request will be met,” he said, while urging Indonesia to “pull back from this brink”.

“Don’t just realise what is in your own best interests, but realise what is in your own best values,” he said in parliament.

Canberra has made more than 20 representations to Indonesian officials since January regarding the pair but Widodo has been unswayed.

Bishop warned Chan and Sukumaran’s execution would have implications, not just in Australia but globally.

“Of course, I’m deeply concerned about the impact of these executions not just on the Australian relationship with Indonesia but on Indonesia’s reputation worldwide,” she said.

“The movement against the death penalty is very strong.”

Chan and Sukumaran, sentenced to death in 2006 for trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia, recently lost their appeals for presidential clemency, typically the last chance to avoid the firing squad.

They 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 soon.

Along with Australia, Brazil and France have also ramped up pressure on Jakarta, with Paris summoning Indonesia’s envoy and the Brazilian president refusing to accept the credentials of the new Indonesian ambassador. —Rappler.com

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