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Indonesia moves Australians ahead of expected executions

04 March 2015, 19:21

Jakarta - Two convicted Australian drug smugglers arrived Wednesday at an Indonesian island prison where they will be executed by firing squad along with seven other foreigners amid a diplomatic squabble with some of their governments. An Indonesian is also scheduled to be executed.

The preparations at the execution site at Nusakambangan Island's maximum-security prison facilities have been completed, said Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo. But authorities have not given a date for the executions, although they appear imminent.

Besides the two Australians, a Nigerian national born in Spain and a Filipino woman were also to be transferred to the island prison off Indonesia's main island of Java. In addition, two other Nigerians and four men from Brazil, France, Ghana and Indonesia are also scheduled to be executed. It was not immediately known how many have been transferred to the island.

The planned executions have soured of relations between Indonesia and other countries involved, especially Australia and Brazil. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo received phone calls from some foreign leaders asking that the executions be canceled, but has rejected their requests. He has vowed not to grant mercy to drug offenders because Indonesia is suffering a "drug emergency."

Australia has repeatedly pleaded for clemency for its two citizens, Andrew Chan, 31 and Myuran Sukumaran, 33, who were arrested in April 2005 while trying to smuggle more than 8 kilograms (18 pounds) of heroin from Bali to Australia.

Chan and Sukumaran were removed from the Kerobokan Penitentiary on Bali island— where they have spent the last decade — in two police armored vehicles in a pre-dawn operation involving scores of riot police. They were taken to Nusakambangan Island by flight and then a boat. Australian media camped there reported their arrival.

Prison authorities had earlier turned away Chan's older brother, Michael Chan, who attempted a visit. Television footage showed Michael Chan walking away from the prison with his brother's Indonesian girlfriend, who was in tears.

Also read: Indonesia rejects clemency appeals, ready to execute 7 foreigners: official

Prison governor Sudjonggo, who goes by a single name, told reporters Chan and Sukumaran did not appear worried as they left the prison. Sukumaran took several pencils in a plastic bag, clothes, a bible and a drawing book, he said.

The Indonesian government last week recalled its newly designated ambassador to Brazil, Toto Riyanto, to protest the postponement of the approval of his credentials by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff amid tensions over the imminent execution of its citizen, Rodrigo Gularte, 42.

The Spain-born Nigerian, Raheem Agbaje Salami, 45, and 30-year-old Filipino Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso have also been convicted of drug smuggling.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has called on Indonesia to "reciprocate" for Australia's $1 billion aid package after the 2004 tsunami by sparing his two countrymen.

"Right now millions of Australians are feeling sick in their guts at the prospect of execution for these two," Abbott told reporters.

"I've been saying again and again that this is contrary to Indonesia's national interest and it is contrary to Indonesia's best values," he added.

Abbott said he understood why many Australians were threatening to never visit Indonesia, a near neighbor.

"I can very much understand their position and I think there are millions of Australians who feel quite angry at this time at what's happening," he said.

But Abbott said the bilateral relationship must survive regardless of what happened to the pair.

"Let's remember that a good relationship with Indonesia is very important to this country and whatever might happen in the next few days, the relationship with Indonesia must endure and, over time, it must grow stronger," he said.

Indonesia executed six drug convicts including foreigners in January. More than 130 people are on death row, including 57 drug convicts.

- AP


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