Australia

Australia offers to fund life in prison for Bali pair

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop speaks at a press conference in Canberra - 12 February 2015 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Julie Bishop has campaigned for the death sentences of two Australian drug smugglers to be commuted

Australia has offered to cover the cost of life imprisonment for Bali Nine pair Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran if Indonesia spares their lives.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop made the offer to her Indonesian counterpart last week, it emerged on Thursday.

Ms Bishop also unsuccessfully offered a prisoner swap for three Indonesian prisoners in Australia.

Chan and Sukumaran are facing death for attempting to smuggle 8.3kg (18lb) of heroin from Bali to Australia in 2005.

In a letter to Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Ms Bishop said Australia was "prepared to cover the costs of the ongoing life imprisonment" for the pair.

The letter also formally made the "one-off" prisoner swap offer, which the two ministers had discussed previously.

Ms Bishop pointed out to Ms Marsudi that the three Indonesian prisoners had attempted to import 390kg of heroin to Australia, "47 times the amount Mr Chan, Mr Sukumaran, and their co-convicted tried to smuggle".

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Media captionThe Bali Nine ringleaders - the essential background in one minute

Ms Marsudi responded to the letter and rejected the prisoner swap offer, but did not mention the issue of costs.

"Let me reiterate that there is no legal basis within the Indonesian law that would allow for such an exchange to take place," Ms Marsudi wrote.

"The president is of the position that such an exchange cannot be undertaken."

Australia's most senior Islamic cleric on Wednesday appealed to Indonesia to spare the men's lives.

Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, the Grand Mufti of Australia, travelled to Jakarta to meet Indonesia's religious affairs minister Lukman Saifuddin.

Dr Mohamed said in a statement after the meeting that he and two other clerics "plead, with respect and humility, for the lives of two young Australian men".

"Mercy and forgiveness lies at the heart of Islam," he added.

Richard Branson has also joined the list of influential figures appealing for the men's lives, writing to Indonesian President Joko Widodo to urge him to grant clemency.

'Reformed prisoners'

Not date has yet been set for Chan and Sukumaran's execution by firing squad. It could now be delayed by weeks after another convict due to be executed alongside them had his appeal adjourned until the end of the month.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were sentenced to death in 2006

An appeal hearing for the two men on Thursday was adjourned for a week.

The pair have been in prison in Bali since 2006, when they were convicted of being the ringleaders in a nine-strong Australian smuggling gang.

Families of both the men have argued that they have reformed their characters during their time at Kerobokan Prison and helped other prisoners to do the same.


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

Who are Chan and Sukumaran?

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