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Australian Police Responsible for Imminent Executions of Two Australians on Indonesian Death Row, Says Lawyer

Convicted drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran will face the firing squad this month, the pair learned Friday.

by Scott Mitchell
Feb 6 2015, 11:50pm

Photo by Firdia Lisnawati/AP

An Australian lawyer has said that Australian authorities are ultimately responsible for the impending executions of two convicted Australian drug smugglers on death row in Indonesia.

Australians Andrew Chan, 31, and Myuran Sukumaran, 33, are currently on death row in an Indonesian prison for their role in trying to smuggle 8.2 kilograms (18 pounds) worth of heroin from Indonesia to Australia nearly a decade ago. The pair were caught along with seven other members of their smuggling crew, known as the "Bali Nine," in an Indonesian airport in 2005.

Robert Myers is an attorney who represented the family of one of pair's convicted co-conspirators, Scott Rush, who is currently serving life in an Indonesian prison. Myers told VICE News he had tried to forewarn Australian Federal Police (AFP) that Rush may be attempting to engage in illegal activity before the crew left Australia, but that authorities let the smugglers leave the country anyway.

In 2005, Rush's father, Ian, had contacted Myers with concerns about his son's impending trip to Bali, suspecting he was involved in criminal activity.

"I called a contact of mine in the AFP and told him what was going on, and that [Rush's] father was worried," Myers said. "My contact told me that he didn't fit the profile and not to worry about it, but that he'd make some calls."

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Myers said his AFP contact called back to advise that authorities could stop Rush at a Queensland airport before he left Australia, using the airport's passport alert system. The contact allegedly told Myers that airport authorities could "pull [Rush] up at the airport and give him a talking to."

"Ian and I thought that was a good idea, so we went ahead with it," instead of trying to intervene personally, Myers said.

But Rush wasn't stopped when he left Australia to Indonesia. Instead, he was detained by Indonesian police as he was attempting to smuggle the heroin back to Australia.

"Of course when Scotty was arrested I went up to Indonesia and visited in prison," Meyers said. "I was furious he'd gone ahead with [the attempted smuggling] after he'd been warned."

"He told me: 'no one stopped me, Bob'," said Myers. "I told him he was a lying little bastard."

But Rush was telling the truth. He hadn't been stopped by the AFP. In fact, Australian authorities had been monitoring the group for some time.

"I thought, 'my god have I done this?'" said Myers. "I got in touch with my AFP contact and I became paranoid. I wouldn't talk on the phone. As I remember it, we met by the side of the Brisbane River and he told me he felt as used as much as I was."

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"The 'passport alert' was a deliberate lie to me, to throw me and Scott's father off," Myers said. "The AFP had known long before their departure, and passed the information onto the Indonesians. Ian would have stopped Scotty, if he'd known there was no passport alert."

Myers said the AFP could have arrested the nine smugglers before they left the country, as they did with other teams of drug mules associated with the syndicate in Brisbane.

Police could have also waited for the smugglers to arrive in Australia and arrested them on Australian soil, he said. Instead, the AFP wrote to Indonesian authorities in advance and provided local police with the smugglers' passport numbers and identification information.

The AFP told their Indonesian counterparts in the letter: "If you suspect Chan and/or the couriers are carrying drugs at the time of their departure, please take whatever action you deem necessary," according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

"A decision like that — to expose an Australian citizen to the death penalty — can't be left to some joe-blow in the AFP," said Myers. "They shouldn't be allowed to decide if you or I face the death penalty."

Capital punishment has been abolished in Australia. The country's last execution was performed in the '60s.

"The police, also, have a responsibility to prevent the commissioning of a crime, and yet the AFP let these guys go, when they could have intervened," Myers said.

"As far as I'm concerned, the AFP considered these people rubbish," he added. "They're drug smugglers and their lives don't mean much, so we'll hand them over to the Indonesians as a bit of a favor."

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Since Indonesian President Joko Widodo formally came to power in October, 2014, the former businessman has declared a major crackdown on illegal drugs in Indonesia and has expedited the executions of convicted drug dealers on death row. 

Indonesian courts have denied all requests for judicial reviews of Sukumaran and Chan's cases and Widodo has ignored numerous pleas for clemency, even those received from Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and one of Widodo's favorite bands, Napalm Death.

Sukumaran and Chan learned Friday that they will be executed this month and will be given 72 hours notice before they are put in front of a firing squad. An official from the Australian consulate in Bali delivered the news in person. Their seven other co-conspirators are currently serving life sentences in prison.

Widodo, known commonly as Jokowi, explained his new tough approach to drugs and executions in an interview with CNN recently.

"Imagine every day we have 50 people die because of narcotics, in one year it's 18,000 people because of narcotics," he said. "The decision of death penalty is on the court. But they can ask for amnesty to the president, but I tell you there will be no amnesty for drug dealers."

Myers argues that members of the Bali Nine never intended to sell the drugs in Indonesia.

"The drugs had come in from Thailand, and were to be imported into Australia," he said. "I think this is a unique case, in that, apart from the drugs being in Indonesia for a short space of time, they never intended to commit a crime against Indonesia. No Indonesians are dying because of what these kids did."

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Follow Scott Mitchell on Twitter: @s_mitchell