Australians on Indonesia death row transferred to execution island

CILACAP, Indonesia (UPDATED) – Two Australian drug smugglers in Indonesia were transferred Wednesday, March 4, to an island where they will be executed, as the Australian leader said his country was "revolted" by their looming deaths after frantic diplomatic efforts to save them.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" drug smuggling gang, were woken early and given a few minutes to get ready before leaving Bali's Kerobokan jail in the early hours, said local justice ministry official Nyoman Putra Surya.

The men, sentenced to death in 2006 for trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia, said "thank you" before leaving, and "we handcuffed them and they were quiet", he added.

Michael Chan attempted to see his brother Andrew before the transfer but prison officials denied him entry, with Surya saying the decision was taken because "today is not visiting day".

About 200 police, 50 soldiers and a water cannon were stationed outside the Bali prison as the men, in their early 30s, were driven out, said an AFP reporter at the scene.

The pair were flown to Cilacap, on Java island, on a chartered commercial flight accompanied by military aircraft.

Officials are yet to announce a date for their executions, but the transfer indicates it is imminent. Authorities must give convicts 72 hours notice before they are put to death.

'Revolted' 

Speaking just before the transfer began, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who has repeatedly called for Jakarta not to go ahead with the executions, said millions of Australians were sickened by the developments.

"We abhor drug crime but we abhor the death penalty as well, which we think is beneath a country such as Indonesia," he told ABC radio.

"We frankly are revolted by the prospect of these executions."

Officials are yet to announce a date for their executions, but the transfer indicates it is imminent. Authorities must give convicts 72 hours notice before they are put to death.

The men, in their early 30s, were convicted of trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia in 2005 and sentenced to death the following year.

They recently lost their appeals for presidential clemency, typically a death row convict's last chance to avoid the firing squad, and their looming executions have strained ties with Australia, traditionally a key ally of Indonesia.

DRILLS. Indonesian special police squad hold a drill ahead of the transfer of Australian death-row prisoners Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran from Kerobokan Prison to Nusakambangan Prison in Denpasar, Bali, on February 27, 2015. Photo by Made Nagi/EPA

DRILLS. Indonesian special police squad hold a drill ahead of the transfer of Australian death-row prisoners Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran from Kerobokan Prison to Nusakambangan Prison in Denpasar, Bali, on February 27, 2015.

Photo by Made Nagi/EPA

Infuriating international allies 

The men are among a group of 10 drug convicts expected to face the firing squad in the upcoming batch of executions.

Officials have not confirmed the identities of the others, although convicts from France, Brazil, the Philippines, Nigeria and Ghana recently lost their appeals for presidential clemency.

Several countries have been piling diplomatic pressure on Jakarta, but President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has been a vocal supporter of the death penalty for drug traffickers, saying Indonesia is facing an "emergency" due to rising narcotics use. (READ: Why Indonesia is likely to ignore protests and execute ‘Bali Nine’ duo)

Indonesia executed 6 people, including 5 foreigners, in January, sparking a diplomatic storm as Brazil and the Netherlands – whose citizens were among those put to death – recalled their ambassadors.

Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo said Tuesday that execution preparations were "95%" complete, and the last stage was gathering all the prisoners on Nusakambangan.

Some of them are already on the island, while the Australians and some others are being transferred from elsewhere in Indonesia.

The Australians' lawyers have launched a series of last-ditch legal bids to try and stop the executions, but all have so far failed. 

Judges have already thrown out an application for a second judicial review of their cases, as well as a challenge to Jokowi's decision not to grant them clemency.

The lawyers have lodged an appeal to the decision to dismiss that challenge, which has not yet been ruled on.

Brazil and France have also been ramping up pressure, with Paris summoning Indonesia's envoy and the Brazilian president refusing to accept the credentials of the new Indonesian ambassador.

The family of the Brazilian, Rodrigo Gularte, say that he has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and should be in a psychiatric facility.

The Frenchman facing execution, Serge Atlaoui, has also applied for a judicial review of his sentence, and his wife said last week he was hopeful of success. – Rappler.com