Corruption allegations over Bali Nine trial sets Australia-Indonesia row


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Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were convicted in 2006 as the ringleaders of a plot to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia. Photo: Reuters Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were convicted in 2006 as the ringleaders of a plot to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia. Photo: Reuters


Australia made a last-minute plea on Monday for a stay in the imminent execution of two Australian drug traffickers in Indonesia, saying that reports their trial had been tainted by corruption needed to be investigated.
The call from Foreign Minister Julie Bishop almost immediately deepened a diplomatic row with Jakarta.
Bishop said the allegations that judges requested money to commute the death sentences for the pair were "very serious" and called into question the integrity of the sentencing process.
Indonesia's foreign ministry hit back, saying Australia needed to show proof of alleged corruption and questioned why concerns were being only raised now instead of 10 years ago.
Armanatha Nasir, spokesman for Indonesia's foreign ministry, said Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan have been given all the legal avenues to challenge their death sentences.
The two are among nine drug convicts, including others from Brazil and Nigeria, due to be executed by firing squad as soon as Tuesday night.
Bali-based lawyer Muhammad Rifan told the Sydney Morning Herald that he had agreed to pay judges in the cases of Chan and Sukumaran more than A$130,000 ($101,647) to give them a prison term of less than 20 years.
Rifan said the deal fell through when the judges told him they had been ordered by senior legal and government members in Jakarta to impose a death penalty and he didn't have enough money to meet a revised, higher demand for a lighter sentence.
"It's a matter for Indonesia's Judicial Commission to investigate these matters and that underlines why we continue to request Indonesia to allow the judicial commission to finalize its review," Bishop told reporters.
"An execution is an irrevocable step and I believe that these hearings and these appeal processes should be concluded before any decision is taken."
Rifan could not be reached for comment.
'Decision is final'
Indonesia's Judicial Commission said it would look into reports alleging corruption but said its findings would have no bearing on their cases.
"We have received a report on that, we have it in our file now, but we have not yet made any decision," Commissioner Taufiqqurahman Syahuri told Reuters.
"But even if it is proven that the judge violated ethical codes, it won't affect the court's earlier decision. We cannot annul a decision from a court, such a thing can only be done by a higher court. What has been decided is final. The Judicial Commission can punish the judge, but ethical and legal matters are different."
Indonesia informed the two Australians at the weekend they would be executed in a matter of days, possibly as soon as Tuesday night.
Bishop criticized Indonesia over its insensitive handling of the announcement on a day when Australians remember their war dead, particularly poignant this year given the 100th anniversary of what is now known as ANZAC Day that marks the start of a doomed World War One campaign in Turkey.
"We did make representations to request that they not do this on our national day of remembrance, but they proceeded with the meeting in any event," she said. "I'm very disappointed that it proceeded in this way."
Bishop said it was not too late for President Joko Widodo to stay the executions.
"Again, I respectfully call on president Widodo to reconsider his refusal to grant clemency," Bishop said. "It is not too late for a change of heart."
Indonesia has harsh punishments for drug crimes and resumed executions in 2013 after a five-year gap. Six executions have been carried out so far this year.
Chan and Sukumaran are among a group of seven death row drug convicts who received notices from the Attorney General's office on Saturday that they would face a firing squad after 72 hours.
Australia is continuing to lobby on behalf of Chan and Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the so-called Bali Nine, who were arrested at the main airport on the holiday island of Bali in 2005 for trying to smuggle 8 kg (17.6 lb) of heroin to Australia.
The other members of the gang, all Australians, have been jailed for between 18 years and life in Indonesia.

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