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Indonesian court rejects death row Australians’ appeal
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Indonesian court rejects death row Australians’ appeal

Kenny Awotorebo

An Indonesian court Monday dismissed an appeal by two Australian drug smugglers facing imminent execution, and the country’s legal chief said the pair have now exhausted all legal attempts to avoid the firing squad.

Following the ruling lawyers for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran vowed to take the case to the Constitutional Court — but Indonesia’s attorney-general accused the legal team of “playing with justice” and said the move would not delay the executions.

In its ruling Monday the State Administrative Court in Jakarta upheld a decision that it does not have the authority to hear a challenge to President Joko Widodo’s rejection of the Australians’ pleas for clemency.

Chan and Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the so-called “Bali Nine” drug trafficking gang, were sentenced to death in 2006 for trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia.

Widodo recently rejected their mercy pleas, typically the final chance to avoid execution. They are expected to be executed soon along with other drug convicts, including foreigners from France, Brazil, the Philippines, Nigeria and Ghana.

Jakarta has said it will wait for all legal appeals to be resolved before putting the group to death at the same time. Some other convicts have lodged Supreme Court appeals, which could take weeks to resolve.

The Australians’ legal team has mounted several attempts to halt the executions. In the latest, they called for the State Administrative Court to hear an appeal against Widodo’s clemency rejection, saying that he failed to properly assess their rehabilitation or give reasons for his decision.

The court refused to accept the application in February, and the Australians’ lawyers appealed that decision.

At a hearing on Monday presiding judge Ujang Abdullah upheld the original decision that the court does not have jurisdiction to rule on the matter.

– ‘Playing with justice’ –

After the decision, a lawyer for the Australians, Leonard Aritonang, told reporters they respected the ruling but added: “This is not over yet.”

He said lawyers would file an application to the Constitutional Court to review the laws relating to presidential clemency.

“We are still hopeful… they are part of a successful rehabilitation programme,” he said, referring to the claim from the men’s supporters that they have been successfully rehabilitated during years in prison.

“It’s a shame that they have to die in the end. What encourages us to keep going through all the options is that, although they have been convicted, in this country every person has the right to life and to defend his life.”

However, authorities have repeatedly insisted that a death row convict’s final chance to avoid the firing squad is through presidential clemency and that further appeals are futile.

Asked about the planned challenge to the Constitutional Court, Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo said there would be no more delays to the executions.

“The legal process is already done,” he said.

“This proves that they are simply trying to buy time. We can say they are playing with justice.”

– International outcry –

Jakarta originally planned to carry out the executions in February, but following an international outcry agreed to let legal appeals run their course.

A Filipina among the group recently lost an appeal to the Supreme Court, while a Frenchman and Ghanaian last week lodged appeals with the court.

Australia, Indonesia’s neighbour and traditionally a key ally, has mounted a sustained diplomatic campaign to try to stop its citizens being put to death, while France and Brazil have also stepped up diplomatic pressure on Jakarta.

But Widodo, who has taken a hard line against drugs offenders, has not been swayed. He has vowed there will no mercy for traffickers, saying Indonesia is facing an “emergency” due to rising narcotics use.

Jakarta in January put to death six drugs offenders including five foreigners, sparking a diplomatic storm as Brazil and the Netherlands — whose citizens were among those executed — recalled their ambassadors.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in February refused to accept the credentials of the new Indonesian ambassador. A second Brazilian, Rodrigo Gularte — whose family say he is mentally ill — is scheduled to be put to death in the next batch of drugs offenders.

Indonesia resumed executions in 2013 after a five-year hiatus. It did not put anyone to death in 2014.