Two convicted drug traffickers from Australia were a step closer to execution in Indonesia with their planned transfer this week to a high-security prison, the Indonesian attorney general’s office announced Monday, according to Agence France Presse. An Australia official last week issued a last-ditch plea to spare the lives of Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31, who were leaders of the so-called Bali Nine, a group of drug traffickers arrested in Indonesia nearly a decade ago for attempting to bring around $4 million worth of heroin into the country. The other suspects are all serving lengthy prison sentences in the Southeast Asian island nation.
The announcement of their impending execution was made amid claims the judges who sentenced them to death were seeking bribes to reduce the sentences, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. Lawyers for Sukumaran and Chan leveled the accusations in a letter to Indonesia's judicial committee, but did not single out the judges by name, instead referring to them as "certain parties."
One lawyer for Sukumaran and Chan remained optimistic about his clients’ chances of avoiding execution despite the transfer to a prison that increases the chances of being punished via death by firing squad. Todung Mulya Lubis last week filed an appeal on behalf of the two men. “I hope this legal process will be respected by the attorney general and all parts of the government,” Lubis said, according to the Guardian. “So they cannot move them, not to mention execute them, while the legal process is still going on.”
Saying the execution of the two men would be “a grave injustice,” Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop called for an alternative to killing them. “I believe it is Indonesia that will lose the most from executing these two young men,” Bishop said during an address before the Australian parliament, the Wall Street Journal reported. “Both men are deeply, sincerely remorseful for their actions. Both men have made extraordinary efforts to rehabilitate,” she added.
The case has galvanized anti-death penalty activists in Indonesia where they admit there is a drug problem that deserves to be addressed. The Mercy Campaign, which was started in response to the case of the Bali Nine, wrote an open letter to Indonesian President Joko Widodo, pleading for leniency for Sukumaran and Chan. "We humbly ask for mercy for the rehabilitated prisoners, Myuran and Andrew, and ask that their penalty be reduced from execution to serving a jail sentence," the letter read in part. "They deserve to be in jail, but not to be killed. We also humbly ask for mercy for other prisoners on death row, especially those who have reformed their lives."