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Australia makes last-ditch effort to save two drug-smugglers from firing squad

Tony Abbott is trying to arrange a prisoner swap with Indonesian authorities.

One of Indonesian police armored vehicles carrying two Australian prisoners arrives on Wijaya Pura port in Cilacap, Central Java.
One of Indonesian police armored vehicles carrying two Australian prisoners arrives on Wijaya Pura port in Cilacap, Central Java.
Image: Achmad Ibrahim

AUSTRALIAN LEADERS HAVE suggested a prisoner swap with Indonesia in an 11th hour bid to save two drug smugglers facing execution, while voicing “deep concern” about Jakarta’s international reputation if they are killed.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the so-called “Bali Nine” drug trafficking gang, could be shot within days after being moved on Wednesday to the Indonesian island where they are due to face a firing squad.

Authorities must give convicts 72 hours’ notice before they are executed and in a last-ditch effort to save them Foreign Minister Julie Bishop proposed a prisoner swap.

She said she had spoken to her counterpart Retno Marsudi in what was reportedly “a very tense phone call”.

“I’ve spoken to her on a number of occasions about this, and I wanted to explore any other avenues or opportunities to save the lives of these two young men who have been so remarkably rehabilitated,” Bishop told ABC radio.

“She undertook to pass on my comments to the president.

“I didn’t go into any specific detail but I did note there were Australian prisoners in Jakarta and there were Indonesian prisoners in Australia and that we should explore some opportunity, a prison swap, a transfer, whether that could be done under Indonesian law.”

Indonesia Executions A police boat guards as a ferry transfers Indonesian police armored vehicles carrying two Australian prisoners to Nusakambangan island, Central Java. Source: Achmad Ibrahim

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that any deal could involve three Indonesians in prison in Australia over their role in an infamous 1998 drug bust.

They were named as Kristito Mandagi, Saud Siregar and Ismunandar, the captain, chief officer and engineer respectively of a boat carrying 390 kilograms (860 pounds) of heroin that was seized near Port Macquarie, some 400 kilometres (250 miles) north of Sydney.

Bishop’s comments followed an impromptu bipartisan candlelight vigil for the pair outside the country’s parliament in Canberra early today, also attended by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, opposition Labour leader Bill Shorten and dozens of MPs.

- © AFP, 2015

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