Two of Bali Nine may avoid death row
MICHAEL BACHELARD AND AMILIA ROSA
Two Australians on death row in Bali should have their sentences reduced to life, the Kerobokan prison governor has announced.
And other Bali Nine drug mules who have applied for their life sentences to be reduced to a fixed term should also have their wish granted.
Bali Nine members Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan appealed to the Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono about two years ago for a grant of clemency, so they would not have to face the firing squad.
But the president - whose term ends in October - has given no indication yet whether he will grant it.
"It's just something simple. I just don't want to be shot, really," Sukumaran said yesterday.
Kerobokan prison governor Farid Junaedi told reporters at a ceremony to mark Indonesia's independence day in Bali on Sunday that he had made "several recommendations" for sentence reductions for good behaviour.
"These include the Bali Nine - from death sentence to life, and from life to a fixed term [which is usually 20 years]," Farid said.
It's the first time the Bali prison governor has announced he has made a recommendation. Prison staff said it was submitted earlier this year to the central government in Jakarta.
It's believed that Dr Yudhoyono is reluctant to make the call to reduce the life sentence for Chan and Sukumaran because it would seem he was favouring foreign drug traffickers and Australian nationals. This would be deeply politically unpopular in Indonesia.
However, it's hoped that the outgoing president may take the opportunity offered by the end of his presidential term to make that decision.
Asked about this, and about the hopes under newly elected president Joko Widodo, Sukumaran said: "I don't even know how these things work".
Both men on death row have worked hard inside the prison to rehabilitate themselves, Chan through work with the church, and Sukumaran through the prison's art, computer and t-shirt printing rooms.
He said a selection of his art was due to be displayed and auctioned in a gallery in Melbourne's Brunswick on September 6, and the proceeds paid back in to the prison.
"That's the one thing that really helps me, gets me through it," Sukumaran said. "Being creative, being constructive. Something enjoyable, and it fills the time really really well and keeps me busy. The days, weeks, months, they all go past."
The Bali Nine were caught in April 2005 trying to traffic 8.3 kilograms of heroin out of Bali.
Since last Indonesian independence day, four of them, Renae Lawrence, Scott Rush, Martin Stephens and Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, have been moved to different prisons for various reasons.
One of them, Matthew Norman, told Fairfax Media he had not yet heard any news about his application, but his file was "where it should be, so fingers crossed".
- Sydney Morning Herald