16 January 2022 (closed)
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Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia, said that a diplomatic fallout may occur between Australia and Indonesia if the latter sticks to its plan to execute two Australian citizens who are on death row in Indonesia on drug charges. On several occasions the Australian government requested for clemency but these requests were rejected by Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Widodo takes a tough stance on drug-related crimes as the spread of forbidden substances jeopardizes people’s health in Indonesia.
While Australia outlawed capital punishment in 1973, Indonesian law still provides for the death penalty today. However, due to rising international condemning of this capital punishment, Indonesian authorities implemented a de facto moratorium on executions between the years 2008 and 2013. Three Muslim militants, involved in the 2002 Bali bombings, were the last to be executed before the temporary moratorium in 2008. However, in 2013, Nigeria-born drug trafficker Adami Wilson was the first to be executed after the moratorium. It is believed that former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (2004-2014), who previously spoke out against the usage of the death penalty amid international pressure, fell prone to domestic pressures. After Yudhoyono changed drug convict Meirika Franola's death sentence into life imprisonment in 2013, public outrage emerged when it became known that she was involved in an organized drug network from within her prison cell (which is made possible due to widespread corruption in Indonesian prisons). Similarly, according to Indonesian media, Adami Wilson was still able to run a drug distribution network from within the prison, trying to generate enough money in order to bribe his way out of the death sentence. As a result of these domestic pressures, Indonesian authorities started to use the death penalty again for drug-related crimes. After Adami Wilson was executed in 2013, five foreigners (from Brazil, the Netherlands, Malawi, Nigeria and Vietnam) and one Indonesian citizen were executed by firing squad on Sunday (18/01) causing diplomatic tensions as Brazil and the Netherlands withdrew their ambassadors temporarily. The two Australian citizens - Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran - are the next foreigners to be executed (no date has been given but the execution is being prepared according to Indonesian authorities). Last month it was reported that a total of 138 people are currently on death row in Indonesia, most of them (64) on drug-related criminal activity. President Widodo is expected not to bow for foreign influences as that can jeopardize political support in Indonesia.
The Bali Nine Group
Chan and Sukumaran have been on death row since 2006 after the pair was identified as leading the ‘Bali Nine’, referring to a group of nine people who were arrested on the island of Bali in 2005 and were found guilty of attempting to smuggle about eight kilograms of heroin from Bali to Australia. Although Chan and Sukumaran were put on death row, other members of the Bali Nine were sentenced to long prison terms.
Over the past weekend Australian Prime Minister Abbot and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop warned that if the executions are to be continued as planned then Australia could boycott Indonesia, for example by discouraging Australians to go on holiday in Bali (this island is a popular tourist destination for Australian tourists). Abbott added that "we will find ways to make our displeasure felt."
In recent history, Australia and Indonesia have experienced diplomatic tensions on several occasions, usually on regional issues, which include people smuggling and intelligence. In 2013, Indonesian authorities recalled their envoy and froze military and intelligence cooperation with Australia after reports surfaced which signaled that Australia had spied on top Indonesian officials (including Yudhoyono's wife). However, diplomatic cooperation was restored in May 2014.
The last Australian citizen that was executed abroad was Nguyen Tuong Van in Singapore in 2005, also due to the smuggling of heroin.