CILACAP, Indonesia (Reuters) - Two convicted Australian drug smugglers were transferred on Wednesday from a Bali prison to an island for execution along with other foreigners, underlining Indonesia’s determination to use the death penalty despite international criticism.
The planned executions of Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31, have ratcheted up diplomatic tension between Australia and Indonesia following repeated pleas for mercy on their behalf. They are among a group of up to 11 convicts, most of them foreigners, due to go before a firing squad on the prison island of Nusakambangan.
Sukumaran and Chan left Bali’s Kerobokan Prison in an armored van with a police escort before dawn and were taken to Denpasar airport for a flight to the Javanese port of Cilacap for the trip to Nusakambangan, witnesses said.
Armored vans boarded a boat in Cilacap and the Australians arrived at Nusakambangan soon after.
A Frenchman and a Brazilian are already on the island. Also facing execution are citizens of the Philippines, Ghana and Nigeria, as well as Indonesia.
Indonesian Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo, who had previously said all 11 would be executed, said his office would take “one or two days to analyze the legal process” undertaken by the Australian duo, but did not elaborate on what impact that would have on the executions.
He said his office was also evaluating how many would go before firing squads. All had been convicted on drug offences.
“We want to send a message to all parties, to the people of the world, that Indonesia is trying hard to battle drug crimes,” Prasetyo said.
A spokesman for Prasetyo’s office confirmed the transfer of the two Australians. Asked for clarification on Prasetyo’s comments, the spokesman said: “There will be no cancellation.”
No date has been announced for the executions and a usual public, 72-hour notice of any execution has not been issued.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he was “revolted by the prospect of these executions”, after Indonesian President Joko Widodo recently told others to stay out of his country’s sovereign affairs.
Widodo has adopted a tough stance against drug traffickers and others on death row, denying clemency appeals. Executions were resumed in 2013 after a five-year gap and nationals from Brazil, Malawi, the Netherlands, Nigeria and Vietnam have been among those put in front of a firing squad.
“I think there are millions of Australians who feel sick to their stomachs about what’s likely to happen to these two men who committed a terrible crime, a terrible crime,” Abbott told Australian radio.
“The position of Australia is that we abhor drug crime but we abhor the death penalty as well, which we think is beneath a country like Indonesia,” he said.
Chan and Sukumaran were convicted in 2005 as the ringleaders of the so-called Bali Nine, who were arrested at the holiday island’s main airport for trying to smuggle 8 kg (18 lb) of heroin to Australia.
The seven other members of the gang, all Australians, have been jailed in Indonesia.
The Australian government has stressed that Chan and Sukumaran have been rehabilitated in prison, where they mentored younger inmates, and has warned of potential political repercussions if the executions go ahead.
A survey by the Sydney-based Lowy Institute think-tank showed strong public disapproval of the executions, with 62 percent of the 1,211 people surveyed opposed. A social media campaign is urging Australians to boycott Bali.
Putra Surya Atmaja, head of the provincial prison division in Bali, told reporters Sukumaran and Chan were being transferred after having “plenty of chances and time with the family”.
The pair have made numerous appeals against their sentences. One of those, which challenges Widodo’s refusal of clemency, is still outstanding.
Peter Morrissey, a Melbourne-based lawyer for the men, said it would be a breach of the rule of law if the executions went ahead before that was resolved.
Asked before the early-morning transfer if the pair were prepared for execution, Morrissey said: “They’re coming to terms with that ... it’s a very raw time for them.”
Abbott said Australia’s lobbying on their behalf had shown some promise, but he no longer wanted to hold out false hope.
“There were some suggestions earlier that perhaps at least some people in the Indonesian systems were having second thoughts but I‘m afraid those signals seem to be dissipating,” he said.
Additional reporting by Beawiharta and Wayan Sukarda in DENPASAR, Kanupriya Kapoor in JAKARTA, Jane Wardell in SYDNEY, and Sonali Paul in MELBOURNE; Editing by Dean Yates, Paul Tait, Robert Birsel