Asia

Bali Nine Australians' death row appeal fails

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Media captionAndrew Chan (L) and Myuran Sukumaran are "bearing up remarkably well" says their lawyer Michael O'Connell

Two Australian drug smugglers sentenced to death cannot challenge the president's decision to refuse them clemency, an Indonesian court has ruled.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were the leaders of the "Bali Nine" group of heroin smugglers arrested in 2005.

They are scheduled to be executed by firing squad in Indonesia soon.

Australia has campaigned hard for their sentences to be commuted and their supporters say they have reformed.

Both men were appealing against an earlier ruling which had barred them from challenging Indonesian President Joko Widodo's rejection of their clemency pleas.

Their lawyers had argued that Mr Widodo - whose stated policy is to deny clemency to drug offenders - had not given adequate consideration to the men's cases.

But the State Administrative Court in Jakarta upheld the earlier decision, saying it had no authority to take the case.

It is not clear where the legal proceedings go now. A spokesman for Indonesia's attorney-general, quoted by Reuters news agency, said the men had exhausted all possible options.

But a lawyer for Chan and Sukumaran told journalists: "We will continue our legal efforts".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The men have been transferred to Indonesia's Nusa Kambangan prison to await their executions

Analysis: Karishma Vaswani, BBC Indonesia editor

The rejection of the appeal was widely expected. Chan and Sukumaran's challenge to Mr Widodo's decision to ban all clemencies was unprecedented both in its audacity and in its legal scope. An Indonesian court had already ruled that it didn't have the authority to make a decision on a presidential ban.

The legal options that the men now have available to them are limited. Their lawyers can appeal against this decision but they are likely to be unsuccessful as they have been in all of their previous attempts. Analysts say once a death row convict's clemency has been rejected by the president, it is next to impossible to reverse that decision.

Chan and Sukumaran's lawyers would know this, but appear to be doing all they can to extend the legal process. Diplomatic efforts to save the two men have so far backfired, and ties between Indonesia and Australia have frayed.


Image copyright Getty/ABC/AFP/AP
Image caption Six former Australian prime ministers issued a call for mercy in February

Reformed characters

Mr Widodo, who took office last year, has been taking a tough stance on drug crime.

In January he authorised the executions of six people, including five foreigners, convicted of drug offences.

The two Australians are in a second group, of 10 foreign nationals, to be put to death. But no date has been set for the executions.

Indonesian authorities say they are waiting for all legal avenues be exhausted in all of the convicts' cases before the group are executed.

Chan and Sukumaran were arrested in Bali in 2005 while attempting to smuggle heroin to Australia.

A court ruled that they had organised a nine-member smuggling operation and they were sentenced to death in 2006.

But their families have argued that they are now reformed characters and should be shown mercy.

Australia has also mounted a passionate diplomatic campaign on their behalf.

The current government has made repeated appeals for the sentences not to be carried out and in February six of Australia's former prime ministers made a united plea for Indonesia to spare their lives.

In a statement, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the government was disappointed by the decision.

"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."

Indonesia has also faced criticism from other countries whose nationals are facing execution. The group of 10 includes people from Brazil, France, Nigeria and the Philippines among others.


Who are the Bali Nine?

  • The eight men and one woman were arrested in April 2005 at an airport and hotel in Bali, Indonesia after a tip-off from Australian police. They were trying to carry 8.3kg (18lb) of heroin back to Australia
  • In 2006 a court ruled that Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran had recruited the others and paid their costs. They were sentenced to death
  • The other seven are serving sentences of between 20 years and life, after some had death sentences revoked on appeal
  • Chan and Sukumaran have repeatedly appealed against their sentences and say they are reformed characters - Chan teaches Bible and cookery classes in prison while Sukumaran is an artist

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