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Australian pleas fall on deaf Indonesian ears

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Despite heartfelt pleas in parliament by Julie Bishop and Tanya Plibersek for the lives of two Australians on death row, the Foreign Minister’s Indonesian counterpart maintains their crime deserves the ultimate punishment.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran’s attempt to smuggle more than 8kg of heroin out of Indonesia in 2005 was a grave crime that deserved punishment, Ms Bishop said in an at times emotional speech to federal parliament on Thursday.

But they didn’t deserve to pay with their lives.

Heartfelt pleas in parliament for Bali duo
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“Both men are deeply, sincerely remorseful for their actions,” the Foreign Minister said.

“Both men have made extraordinary efforts to rehabilitate.”

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek followed with an equally powerful argument against the pair’s executions.

She reflected on her husband Michael Coutts-Trotter’s drug conviction 30 years ago, and what a loss it would have been if he was punished with death.

“In 1988, my husband left prison after being charged and convicted of a similar crime to these young men.”

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She could not imagine if her husband had been caught for his drug crimes in Thailand instead of Australia.

“I imagine what would have happened if he had been caught in Thailand instead of in Australia where that crime was committed,” Ms Plibersek said.

“What would the world have missed out on? They would have missed out on the three beautiful children we have had together.

“They would have missed out on a man who spent the rest of his life making amends for the crime that he committed.”

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said she had received letters from both women and phone calls from the minister.

Her replies were clear and consistent, she said.

AAP
Tanya Plibersek makes an emotional speech in Parliament. Photo: AAP

“I have told Julie that this is not against a country, this is not against nationals of a certain country, but this is against a crime, against an extraordinary crime,” she told reporters in Jakarta.

“We will keep on communicating, explaining, in consistent language like that.”

While Indonesia and Australia keep trading views on the death penalty to no effect for Chan and Sukumaran, their families continue visiting their prison daily.

Artist Ben Quilty and Victorian Supreme Court Judge Lex Lasry joined them on Thursday.

Only President Joko Widodo can save the men from execution but he gave a defiant vow this week not to succumb to outside pressure on the death penalty for drug felons.

In her statement, Ms Bishop said besides more than 55 ministerial and prime ministerial representations for the men, high-profile Australians had made “discreet overtures to their influential Indonesian contacts”.

“Our officials in Jakarta have made – and are continuing to make – respectful, tireless and targeted diplomatic representations at the highest levels,” she said.

Australia understood Indonesia’s determination to tackle drugs and no country had done more to support its aims than Australia, the minister said.

Quilty told reporters in Bali that Sukumaran was aware of the speech and was grateful.

“He was having a hard time and he’s very thankful to see that support,” he said.

Lawyers for Chan and Sukumaran are challenging Mr Joko’s blanket denial of clemency for all drug offenders sentenced to death.

However, the attorney-general says it won’t halt his execution plans.

The Indonesian government says about 18,000 deaths a year are due to drugs, but the researchers who compiled the report have told AAP it was only ever intended to give a general picture of drug use.

-AAP

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