Australia's ex-prime ministers issue Bali Nine plea

JAKARTA/MELBOURNE – Eight death row inmates due to be executed will not be transferred to the prison where they will face firing squads until at least next week, officials said Tuesday.

The Indonesian and seven foreign drug offenders, including Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, had been due to be moved to Batu high security prison on Nusa Kambangan island this week.

No date has been announced for the executions.

However, the Attorney General’s Office said Tuesday the transfer had been deferred. Spokesman Tony Spontana said this was to allow Chan and Sukumaran’s families more time to see the two men.

"It's a form of response to the Australian government and the families, giving more time [for them] to meet them," Spontana said in a telephone interview with the Anadolu Agency.

Chan’s elderly parents Helen and Ken, who is seriously ill, reportedly returned to Sydney Monday.

Spontana said conditions at Batu prison were another consideration in delaying the executions.

"It would be difficult to carry the out executions of more than five inmates in such a narrow space," Spontana said, adding that the prison authorities are working to improve the facilities.

Despite the delay, Spontana said the executions would still go ahead this month.

Foreign nationals from Australia, Brazil, France, the Philippines and Nigeria are due to be executed. They are currently held at five prisons across Indonesia.

Last month, five convicts were executed at Batu, off the southern coast of Java, with a sixth executed at the same time in Boyolali prison in Central Java.

Spontana also reported that the Brazilian death row convict Rodrigo Gularte, arrested in 2004 with 6 kilograms (13 pounds) of heroin, was suffering mental illness and prison authorities had requested an examination prior to his execution.

Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo will consider the report before deciding whether to proceed with Gularte’s death sentence.

However, Spontana said there was no law or regulation that would prevent Gularte being executed on the grounds of mental health. Pregnancy is the only health-related exemption, he added.

In Australia, six former prime ministers added their voices to calls for mercy for Chan, 31, and Sukumaran, 33, on Tuesday.

In statements to The Australian newspaper, Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, John Howard, Paul Keating, Bob Hawke and Malcolm Fraser called for compassion.

“They committed a very serious crime but have demonstrated genuine rehabilitation,” Howard, who served as prime minister between 1996 and 2007, said. “Mercy being shown in such circumstances would not weaken the deterrent effect of Indonesia’s strong anti-drug laws.”

Gillard, prime minister from 2010 to 2013, added: “I personally would find it heartbreaking if such extraordinary efforts to become of good character were not met with an act of mercy, of recognition of change.”

Pleas for Chan and Sukumaran’s death sentences to be commuted have focused on their efforts at rehabilitation over the past 10 years.

There have been suggestions of recrimination if the pair are executed, with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop suggesting Australians may boycott Indonesia, as well as calls for cutting diplomatic ties, something Fraser said would be “extremely foolish.”

Hawke said: “These two men made a mistake when they were young and foolish. They have served their incarceration with model behavior and I therefore urge and plead that the government reconsider its decision to now take their lives.”

Keating described the planned execution by firing squad as a “monstrous act.”

Chan and Sukumaran led a gang, dubbed the Bali Nine, that attempted to smuggle $3.2 million worth of heroin from Indonesia to Australia in April 2005. The other seven gang members were sentenced to life terms.

Chan and Sukumaran’s lawyers told ABC News that they have received indications that their 11th-hour legal appeal is progressing.

A hearing is due next week for an administrative appeal against Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s blanket decision to reject all clemency requests for drug cases. The Australians’ lawyers say Widodo has compromised due process by not considering the cases individually.

Lead lawyer Todong Mulya Lubis said: “They cannot transfer, they cannot move Chan and Sukumaran, let alone kill them, while the legal process is going on.”

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