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Black Sabbath Guitarist Pleads with Indonesia to Have Mercy on Australian Drug Smugglers

Tony Iommi is the latest heavy metal hero to lend his voice to the campaign to spare the lives of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, who face imminent death by firing squad.

by Sally Hayden
Mar 4 2015, 6:50pm

Photo via Flickr

Indonesian President Joko Widodo is being petitioned by members of some of his favorite bands over the fate of two convicted Australian drug traffickers who face imminent death by firing squad in his country.

Jokowi, as the president is popularly known, is an enthusiastic fan of heavy metal bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Lamb of God, and Napalm Death. Though the former furniture salesman is widely admired for his unlikely and swift ascent to the presidency, garnering comparisons to US President Barack Obama, he's also become an internet darling for attending thrash concerts brandishing "devil horns" and attired in metal T-shirts.

Australians Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31, were convicted in 2006 and sentenced to death for their involvement in the Bali Nine drug ring, which had planned to smuggle 18 pounds of heroin from Indonesia into Australia. In late February, the pair lost an appeal against Jokowi's denial of clemency.

Related: Indonesia Plans to Execute 10, Including 2 Australians, for Drug Crimes

Officials in Australia and rights groups have entreated the president to reconsider, but his zero tolerance on drugs has remained steadfast.

"Don't let anyone try to intervene in our sovereign law," Jokowi recently remarked to reporters. "About the executions of drug offenders, this is our sovereign law."

Napalm Death vocalist Mark "Barney" Greenway added his larynx-shredding voice to the call for clemency in an appeal to the president late last month.

"As a follower of our band Napalm Death, you would appreciate that our lyrics and ethos challenge the unbroken cycle of violence in the world, whether it comes from a state or as an individual," Greenway wrote. "If these things are not challenged and ultimately changed, I believe we will never truly move forward as humankind."

Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi is the latest metal veteran to write an open letter to the Indonesian president about the two Australians, encouraging him to allow them to serve a life sentence instead.

"I have seen first-hand the negative impacts that drugs can have on people and their families. That is why I understand your strong views on this issue," the guitarist wrote in a text released yesterday. "The lndonesian prison system has had great success in transforming Andrew and Myuran. I appeal to you, as a forgiving man, to take note of their transformation."

Iommi's letter was sent after a plea for intervention came from Australian Jon Dee, founder of the Australian non-profit Do Something, which works to promote social and environmental change.

Sukumaran and Chan were transferred on Wednesday to the island where they will be executed, though Jokowi has said that they will not be put to death this week. The two men were taken from Kerobakan Prison on Bali to Nusakambangan. Dubbed "Execution Island," death row inmates on Nusakambangan are reportedly usually taken to the woods under cover of darkness, where they are shot dead.

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

Indonesia has declared illegal drug use a national emergency, and has no qualms about ending the lives of drug offenders. Six people died in January in the country's first round of executions under Jokowi, all of them for narcotics violations. Others facing imminent execution include citizens of Ghana, Nigeria, France, Brazil, and the Philippines.

The Indonesian president has argued that it would not be fair for him to show mercy for one country's citizens over those of another.

On Wednesday, Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop reiterated calls for Indonesia's government to spare the two Australian nationals, and said that she had spoken to the families of the two men that morning.

"As you can imagine they are devastated, but they are just living day by day," she said.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said he is "revolted" by the idea of the deaths.

Iommi's letter was reportedly translated and delivered to the president's office in Jakarta. Here is the letter's text in full:

The President of lndonesia
3rd March 2015

Your Excellency,

I am writing to appeal to you to grant clemency to Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran

I understand and respect your efforts to combat drug abuse in lndonesia, this is something that all countries are having to deal with.

lndeed, I have seen first-hand the negative impacts that drugs can have on people and their families. That is why I understand your strong views on this issue. The lndonesian prison system has had great success in transforming Andrew and Myuran.

I appeal to you, as a forgiving man, to take note of their transformation. They are now reformed men who are making a positive difference to the lives of their fellow prisoners.

That they have been transformed so much is a real credit to the lndonesian authorities.

For this reason, I would ask that you stop the execution of Andrew and Myuran.

Please allow them to serve out life sentences where they contribute to the wellbeing of lndonesia and make good for the error of their previous ways. I do hope you will consider this personal appeal.

Yours sincerely,
Tony Iommi
Guitarist, Black Sabbath.

Follow Sally Hayden on Twitter: @sallyhayd
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