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Families visit Australians on Indonesian death row

09 March 2015, 08:25

Cilacap - The families of two Australian drug smugglers facing imminent execution in Indonesia visited them on Monday for the first time on a prison island where they will be put to death.

Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, the ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" drug trafficking gang, were sentenced to death in 2006 for trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia.

They recently lost their appeals for presidential clemency, typically the final chance to avoid the firing squad, and are expected to be executed soon with other foreign drug convicts.

The men, in their early 30s, were moved last week from their jail on Bali to Nusakambangan prison island off Java, where the executions will take place.

Australia has mounted a sustained diplomatic campaign to stop the executions going ahead.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott issued a fresh appeal on Monday, saying: "We respect Indonesia's sovereignty, of course, we respect Indonesia's system, of course.

"But we think it's right and proper that Indonesia should look to its own long-term best interests and its own long-term best values."

Earlier Monday, the men's relatives arrived at Cilacap, the port town on Java that is the gateway to Nusakambangan, as they headed to see them.

"We're fairly excited to go see Andy today," Andrew's brother Michael told reporters.

"It's been a few days. We're just looking forward to see him when we get over there, giving him a hug."

Sukumaran's brother Chinthu said he and his mother Raji and sister Brintha "have been waiting, counting down the days".

"We've been told he's doing well, so we just want to see him for ourselves, just to make sure, and let him know that we love him."

The families, escorted by consular officials, were expected to spend several hours on the island before returning to Cilacap.

'Rehabilitated and reformed'

Foreign drug convicts from France, Brazil, the Philippines, Nigeria and Ghana also recently lost their appeals for presidential clemency, and are expected to be executed at the same time as the Australians on Nusakambangan.

The Australians, a French convict, Serge Atlaoui, and a Filipina, Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, are all mounting legal challenges to their sentences, although Indonesian officials insist an appeal for presidential clemency is a death row convict's final chance to avoid execution.

A lawyer for Chan and Sukumaran said at the weekend that a court will on Thursday hear the latest legal appeal by the pair.

They had sought to challenge President Joko Widodo's decision to reject their pleas for clemency - but a Jakarta court last month dismissed that bid. Their lawyers have now lodged an appeal against that decision.

Widodo, who took office in October, has been a vocal supporter of the death penalty for drug convicts, saying that Indonesia is facing an "emergency" due to rising narcotics use.

He said in an interview broadcast at the weekend that he might be open to abolishing capital punishment, but only in the future and if the public were in favour.

The president has refused to change course despite appeals from Australia, France and Brazil.

In his comments on Monday Abbott also said that Chan and Sukumaran had been "thoroughly rehabilitated and reformed" during a decade behind bars.

Abbott said it had not been possible to arrange another conversation with Widodo about the looming executions, as he wanted, but Canberra would continue trying.



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