Friday, 13 August 2010

Indonesia: remorse appeal for life

Bali nine pair admit guilt in bid to avoid firing squad
Tom Allard
From: The Sydney Morning Herald
August 13, 2010

Sydneysiders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran have, for the first time, admitted their role in the Bali nine heroin smuggling syndicate, but asked to be handed a 20-year prison term as they launch their final judicial appeals to avoid the firing squad.

The admission of guilt, contained in documents submitted to a Denpasar court today, follows repeated pleas of not guilty at three previous trials.

The two were arrested with seven other Australians in 2005 for trying to smuggle eight kilograms of heroin from Bali to Australia.

Chan and Sukumaran were found guilty of smuggling the drugs and sentenced to death at the three other trials, accused of being the ringleaders of the plot.

The appeal requests the Indonesian Supreme Court consider their efforts to rehabilitate themselves and take on leadership roles in Kerobokan prison by training other prisoners in skills to prepare them for life outside the prison walls.

Both Chan and Sukumaran acknowledge that what they did had been harmful to the community and themselves, but that they had vowed to be "better" men.

Their court submissions argue both have "changed radically" since being imprisoned.

As for their lack of previous co-operation with authorities, Chan and Sukumaran apologise and put it down to an "inability to think clearly".

Sukumaran's submission argues he was traumatised by the arrest in a foreign country and had "poor advice from a certain party".

As required by law, the judicial review is based on legal argument that previous rulings made manifest errors, including not properly considering that the two had been rehabilitated and a finding by Indonesia's constitutional court that the death penalty should only be used sparingly as a "special and alternative punishment".

Sukumaran's submission also argues that Indonesia has signed the UN convention of civil and political rights, a treaty which underpins a body of international law that explicitly rejects the use of the death penalty for narcotics crimes.

Evidence from other members of the Bali nine needs to be treated with caution, it says. It also cites the Indonesian constitution's recognition that all people have a basic right to life.

A key argument is that previous rulings had mistakenly found them guilty of exporting drugs. As the drug mules were arrested before they left Indonesia's customs area at Denpasar airport, the judicial review argues that the act of exporting did not take place.

Rather, they had only attempted to smuggle the heroin to Australia.

"An attempted crime is usually subject to a more lenient sentence compared to one that has been completed. This is because of the consequences that arise differ between the two crimes," the judicial reviews say.

"The narcotics did not reach its users."The fact that the crime was only an "attempt", and that Chan and Sukumaran had made strong efforts, with the assistance of prison officials, to rehabilitate themselves warranted a 20-year sentence, they argue.

The trial of Chan and Sukumaran is likely to begin in a couple of weeks and a verdict handed down before the end of the year.

The other Bali nine member facing the death penalty, Scott Rush, launched his final appeal last month. Rush's first hearing before the court is on Wednesday.

Tom Allard is the Herald's correspondent in Indonesia.

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