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Indonesia rejects prisoner swap

March 5, 2015

Indonesia has rejected a proposal by the Australian government to swap prisoners to spare the lives of two convicted drug smugglers. The Australian nationals are due to be executed on an Indonesian island.

Indonesien Australien Todesurteil Drogenschmuggler
Image: Reuters/D. Whiteside

Indonesia on Thursday vowed to press on with the executions of convicted drug criminals Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, despite the Australian government's 11th-hour proposal to repatriate three Indonesian drug criminals in Australia for Chan and Sukumaran.

"In accordance with the president's order, the death penalty handed to the convicts will still be conducted," Security Minister Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno told reporters in Jakarta.

Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo was also cited in local media rejecting the offer. "The offer is not balanced and relevant to what we are going to do," he told the Tempo news website.

Shortly before Australia's proposal became public, the two Australian convicts were transferred to the Indonesian prison island Nusakambangan, where they face a firing squad, along with up to nine other convicts from various countries.

Early on Thursday, an impromptu candlelight vigil was held outside parliament house in Canberra, attended by lawmakers. Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he had requested another telephone call with Indonesian President Joko Widodo to ask for the men's lives to be spared. Australia has made numerous pleas for clemency with the Indonesian president but, so far, to no avail.

Chan and Sukumaran, ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" were arrested in 2005 for trying to smuggle 8 kilograms (18 pounds) of heroin into Australia. They were sentenced to death the following year.

Other countries that have citizens due to be executed have also tried to put pressure on Indonesia, with the Netherlands and Brazil recalling their ambassadors in January. Brazil has also refused to accept the credentials of the new Indonesian ambassador, and France summoned Indonesia's envoy.

ng/kms (Reuters, AFP)