Indonesian Court Rejects Clemency Bid by Bali Nine Duo

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An Indonesian administrative court declined to hear a challenge to President Joko Widodo’s rejection of clemency for two Australian drug smugglers on death row.

Chief Judge Ujang Abdullah said on Monday in Jakarta that the case didn’t fall under the court’s jurisdiction. That leaves Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran -- part of a group known as the Bali Nine arrested on the Indonesian resort island in 2005 for attempting to carry 8 kilograms (17 pounds) of heroin through the airport -- facing execution by firing squad.

Leonard Aritonang, a lawyer for the pair, told reporters after the decision that he’d seek a Constitutional Court review of the law surrounding presidential clemency. Australia is disappointed at the decision, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said in a statement on Monday.

“Both men have undergone extensive rehabilitation and I will continue to make representations to my counterpart, just as Australia will continue to use all diplomatic options to seek a stay of execution,” she said in the statement. “Again, the Australian government respectfully requests the president to review their pleas for clemency.”

Indonesia’s government said in December it would execute 64 convicts who have been given death sentences, including foreigners. As well as the two Australians, it plans to execute drug convicts from countries such as France, Ghana and Indonesia. After six people were executed in January for drug trafficking, Brazil and the Netherlands recalled their ambassadors in protest.

Diplomatic Tensions

Amnesty International has said the executions would be a setback to Indonesia’s promise to improve human rights.

Australia, which opposes the death penalty, has made more than 50 appeals for clemency for the Bali Nine pair, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott saying the decision to execute them was “beneath” Indonesia and against its best interests. The stand-off is the most serious since 2013 when Abbott refused to apologize amid reports Australia spied on Indonesia’s leaders.

President Widodo, known as Jokowi, has said he won’t show mercy for convicted drug smugglers, and his government has rejected Australia’s proposal for a prisoner swap.

“Imagine, every day 50 of our people” die from drug-related illness, Jokowi said in a Feb. 2 interview in Jakarta. “One year, 18,000 people die,” he said. “For me there is no compromise.”

In calling for clemency, Abbott said on Feb. 18 that Indonesia should remember Australia’s aid to the nation in the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry responded that “no one responds well to threats.”

Trade Ties

Tensions heightened further when Australia summoned the Indonesian ambassador to complain about the treatment of Sukumaran and Chan during their transfer in early March from Bali’s Kerobokan prison to Nusa Kambangan island in Central Java. Photos emerged of an Indonesian police chief smiling as he posed with the grim-faced pair.

Ties between the nations were damaged in 2013 after the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported that documents leaked by U.S. whistle blower Edward Snowden showed Australia spied on then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono by tapping his phone. In response Indonesia severed defense and people-smuggling agreements and the dispute threatened to disrupt trade including cattle shipments from Australia.

Two-way trade between the nations bounced back to $10.6 billion last year, from $9.4 billion in 2013, according to figures from Bank Indonesia. Australia is a major importer of Indonesia’s petroleum, while the Southeast Asian country purchases agricultural products including wheat and livestock from its neighbor.

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