Indonesia rejects Australia’s offer to save smugglers

Jakarta says offer to exchange prisoners with view to save lives of two Australians awaiting execution is not balanced.

Indonesian authorities have said Australia's offer is "not balanced and relevant to what we are going to do" [AFP]

Indonesia has rejected Australia’s proposal for a prisoner swap intended to save the lives of two Australian drug smugglers who are expected to face a firing squad within days.

The planned executions of Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31, have sparked diplomatic tension between the two nations after Australia’s repeated pleas for mercy on their behalf.

The two men, who were convicted in 2005, are part of a group of up to 11 convicts, mostly foreigners, due to be executed on the prison island of Nusakambangan.

Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, the security minister, said on Thursday the executions would be carried out as planned.

“In accordance with the president’s order, the death penalty handed to the convicts will still be conducted,” Purdijatno told reporters in the capital Jakarta. 

Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo was also cited in local media rejecting the offer. “The offer is not balanced and relevant to what we are going to do,” he told the Tempo news website. 

Indonesia’s foreign ministry said there was no legal basis for Indonesia to act on the proposal that had been made by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. 

“Basically Indonesia does not have any regulation or legal framework regarding a prisoner swap,” said Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Armanatha Nasir. 

Also facing execution are citizens of France, Brazil, the Philippines, Ghana and Nigeria, as well as Indonesia.

Candlelight vigil 

Australian politicians held a candlelight dawn vigil outside parliament house in support of the men early on Thursday, when Bishop said she had spoken to Indonesia’s foreign minister earlier this week. 

“I raised the fact that there were Indonesian prisoners in Australian jails and whether there was an opportunity for us to consider a prisoner swap, a prisoner transfer or a clemency plea in exchange for a return of prisoners,” Bishop said.  

“I just asked for a pause in their preparations for the execution of Mr Sukumaran and Mr Chan so that we could have officials explore these ideas,” she told Sky News Australia. 

Australia does not have the death penalty and a recent survey by the Sydney-based Lowy Institute think tank showed nearly two-thirds of the public disapproved of the executions. 

Sukumaran and Chan were transferred from Bali’s Kerobokan Prison on Wednesday to Nusakambangan, which lies off Java. 

Tony Abbott, Australia’s prime minister, said he had asked to speak again with Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Thursday. 

Widodo told Al Jazeera the men would be executed soon, but not this week. 

“I am still convinced that the justice system in Indonesia, if you look at drug crime, is valid and based on facts and evidence,” he said. 

“That’s why when I rejected their clemency, I looked at their cases, how many drugs they were carrying.” 

Source: News Agencies