Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has begged Indonesian leader Joko Widodo not to execute two Australian drug smugglers by firing squad.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Abbott has urged Joko Widodo to show mercy to Myuran Sukumaran, who faces death by firing squad after his appeal for clemency was rejected. The plea is the latest move in an ongoing campaign to save the lives of Sukumaran and childhood friend and fellow heroin smuggler Andrew Chan. Chan's appeal for clemency has yet to be heard, but if it fails, the childhood friends will be executed by firing squad and will die together.
Sputnik News reports that Joko Widodo, the newly elected Indonesian president, has pledged that he will not grant clemency to any drug smuggler who has been sentenced to death on the predominantly Muslim islands. Six people, five of whom are foreign nationals, will face the firing squad this coming Sunday. The executions will mark the first use of the death penalty since Joko Widodo took office in October.
Mr. Widodo's Attorney-General, H. Muhammad Prasetyo, said that Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan committed their crime at the same time, which is why they will face simultaneous execution.
He said, "When a crime is committed by more than one person, the execution must be conducted at the same time. So Myuran will wait for his turn."
"This will send a message to members of drugs syndicates — there is no mercy for drug dealers and traffickers. For those who disagree with the death penalty, hopefully they can understand that what we are doing is simply to save our nation from the threat of narcotics."
It is understood that Prime Minister Tony Abbott has been in direct contact with Joko Widodo in an attempt to avoid the first execution of an Australian citizen abroad for over a decade. BBC News reports that Sukumaran and Chan were the ringleaders of a group of nine Australians arrested in Bali in April 2005 with more than 8.3kg (18lb) of heroin. The Australians have become known as the "Bali nine." The other seven in the group have been jailed for between 20 years and life.
Mr. Chan has said that he and Sukumaran are "both trying to stay strong for our family and friends at this difficult time."
"It is hard to think that our lives are in the hands of two men -- Tony Abbott and Joko Widodo - who have the power to grant life and death -- please pray for a change of heart for these men and for our families."
Indonesia has some of the world's toughest drugs laws, and Joko Widodo shows no signs of easing up on those laws despite wide-ranging criticism for the use of the death penalty in drugs cases. Australia opposes the death penalty, and its government has said it will continue to campaign for its citizens who are facing execution abroad.
Human rights group Amnesty International has urged the Indonesian government and President Widodo to halt executions immediately, and eventually abolish the death penalty, but Joko Widodo shows no signs of complying with their demands.