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Indonesian Judges Were Ordered to Give Australians the Death Penalty, Claims Lawyer

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran may have as little as a day to live, as Indonesian authorities make final preparation for their executions on the jungle prison island of Nusa Kambangan.

by Scott Mitchell
Apr 27 2015, 12:55pm

Photo by Tatan Syuflana/AP

As the executions of Australian drug smugglers Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan appear to draw close in Indonesia, their original defense lawyer has claimed that the judges on the case asked for bribes in exchange for sparing the pair, but they were eventually directed by Jakarta to impose death sentences.

On Saturday night, Sukumaran and Chan were given their mandatory 72 hours notice before they face the firing squad. They could be tied to a post and shot along with 10 other death row inmates on the jungle prison island of Nusa Kambangan as soon as Tuesday night. The final preparations have reportedly been made, including the deployment of 1,200 security personnel to secure the island.

The executions, if they proceed, will now take place under even more scrutiny and contention after the pair's original lawyer made extraordinary claims of corruption against the judiciary on Monday.

"We met many times with the judges," Mohammad Rifan told Australian journalist, Mark Davis. "We were talking about how long the penalty would be. Even though this is prohibited between lawyers and a judge, this is the reality. It's normal."

"It was more than 1 billion rupiah [Approximately $104,000 at the time] to get a verdict lower than 20 years — 15 or 16 or 17 years like that. So then we had a deal on that."

Sukumaran and Chan were originally sentenced to death in 2006 for their part in a plan to traffic 18.3 pounds (8.3 kg) of heroin to Australia. During the trial they were alleged to be the ring leaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" ring of drug mules.

Rifan added that by admitting the negotiations, he was exposing himself, but that it was perhaps the only thing left in the fight to spare Sukumaran and Chan from the death penalty. He went on to allege that after a deal was struck, the judges presiding over the case were instructed by the Indonesian attorney-general's office and the supreme court to impose the death penalty and subsequently returned to Rifan demanding more money.

"I just explained to them how much we had and they said the risk was now too big for them and that the [1 billion rupiah] was not enough," he said.

Rifan said he has made several complaints to the Indonesian judicial commission, which opened an investigation two months ago. This was confirmed by Judicial Commissioner Taufiqqurahman Syahuri, who told media that even if the allegations were true, it wouldn't change Sukumaran and Chan's fate.

"We have received a report on that, we have it in our file now, but we have not yet made any decision," he said. "But even if it is proven that the judge violated ethical codes, it won't affect the court's earlier decision. We cannot annul a decision from a court, such a thing can only be done by a higher court."

Even before the allegations emerged, Australia was "profoundly dismayed" by Indonesian authorities declaring the 72 hours notice according to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who said her office had asked Indonesian officials to not make the declaration on Saturday. which was Australia's day of national remembrance for fallen soldiers known as ANZAC day. Bishop explained, however, that "they proceeded with the meeting in any event."

Asked about Rifan's allegations, Bishop said that, "they call into question the integrity of the sentencing process," while adding the claim "underlines why we continue to request Indonesia to allow the judicial commission to finalize its review… An execution is an irrevocable step and I believe that these hearings and these appeal processes should be concluded before any decision is taken."

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who was holding a press conference in France on Sunday, offered last-ditch public appeals to his Indonesian counterpart.

"We abhor the death penalty, we oppose it at home, we oppose it abroad," he said. "I want to reassure Australians that even at this late hour, we are continuing to make the strongest possible representations to the Indonesian Government that this is not in the best interests of Indonesia, let alone in the interests of the young Australians concerned."

Sukumaran and Chan have both made their final requests before execution. Chan was allowed to marry his fiancée, Indonesian Christian pastor, Febyanti Herewila, on Monday in a ceremony conducted at the prison island. Sukumaran, who since entering prison has become an artist who has been exhibited around the world, asked to be allowed to paint until he is taken to the firing squad. On Monday, family members and supporters displayed his most recent work, completed in the last couple of days, that they had just retrieved from him.

Controversy mars the cases of several other death-row inmates that are set to be executed. A Filipina domestic worker, Mary-Jane Veloso, was convicted of trafficking 5.7 pounds of heroin in 2010, although she claims she was tricked into becoming a mule by a human trafficking ring. 

Veloso was given a translator who only knew Indonesian Bahasa and English, of which she speaks neither, during her trial. According to the Catholic Bishops Association of the Philippines, Philippine President Benigno Aquino has asked Jokowi for clemency, as has the boxer Manny Pacquiao.

Pacquiao addressed the Indonesian president in a statement that he gave on Filipino television: "It will be a great morale booster if, in my own little way, I can save a life. I am dedicating this fight to my country and the entire Asian people, to which the Philippines and Indonesia belong."

Follow Scott Mitchell on Twitter: @s_mitchell

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