Executions may upset Indonesia-Australia relationship

- As another appeal for clemency is rejected, lawyer says executions of Australian men could hurt joint policing exercises.

By Jill Fraser

MELBOURNE (AA) - The lawyer for two Australians on death row in Indonesia claims their execution could jeopardize future cooperation between the two countries' police forces -- a collaboration that has included counter-terrorism operations, the halting of illegal migration and clamping down on drug smugglers.

Speaking on ABC radio Thursday, Julian McMahon said that since Australia's police force had tipped off Indonesia as to the presence of a drugs gang that Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran headed, any execution would destroy that strong relationship.

“It's in no one's interest if the Australian Federal Police have that kind of cooperation totally hamstrung on the idea that well, if we talk to you and give you assistance, we're going to get people executed,” McMahon told the ABC. 

“It's a very unsatisfactory situation so the fact that the Australian police are involved should actually be of great assistance to my clients now as leverage in dealing with the Indonesian authorities.”

“But it looks like that's not working,” he added.

Chan and Sukumaran have just had their last ditch appeal against the death penalty rejected. Indonesia’s Attorney General HM Prasetyo said Monday that the duo "will be included" in the next group of prisoners to be put to death.

The two men are members of the so-called Bali Nine -- arrested at Bali's Denpasar airport in 2005 for attempting to smuggle 8kg (18lb) of heroin into Australia. They have been on death row ever since.

No date has as yet been set for the execution, but it is expected to be carried out on the island of Nusakambangan -- possibly as early as Sunday -- off the coast of central Java, where six executions were carried out in January of this year.

On Wednesday, hopes for a legal review of their executions were dashed when Bali’s Denpasar District Court announced that the judicial review applications lodged by Sukumaran and Chan were declined because they didn’t “fulfill the requirement to have new evidence.”

McMahon admitted the situation looked “bleak.”

On Thursday, he took aim at a poll -- commissioned by ABC youth radio station triple j -- which found that a slim majority of Australians supported the death penalty for countrymen involved in trafficking.

Both Indonesia's ambassador to Canberra, Nadjib Rifat Kesuma, and the country's Attorney General Prasetyo have referred to the findings as proof many Australians support the judicial killing of the two men.

"We have heard that many Australians support the execution and it is one of the things that pushes us to feel we are not making a mistake," Prasetyo told media Monday.

Supporters of Chan and Sukumaran have said their bid for clemency was stymied in part by the poll's findings.

Fairfax has reported that Roy Morgan Research conducted the “snap” poll in January -- over the Australia Day weekend -- by sending an SMS to a database it had previously interviewed.

"In your opinion if an Australian is convicted of drug trafficking in another country & sentenced to death, should the penalty be carried out?" the message read.

Those contacted were asked to reply "Y" for "Yes" and "N" for "No".

Just over half of the 2123 respondents, 52 percent, responded "Y".

McMahon said Thursday the result "is now a tool being used to get my clients killed.”

“It’s so irresponsible,” he added.

On Thursday, Chan and Sukumaran wrote a five-line letter to Indonesia's government, begging for the chance to continue helping the Indonesian community.

“We beg for moratorium, so we can have chance to serve to Indonesian community and bring more benefit on the rehabilitation process in prison," the letter read.

"We believe in Indonesia’s legal system that bring justice and humanity.”

According to a March 2014 report by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute report, the policing relationship between Australia and Indonesia -- separated by just 5423.4 km (3370 miles) at their closest point -- has bought significant benefits to both countries’ interests, most notably in the cooperation against transnational crime and related security threats, such as terrorism.

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