JAKARTA (Reuters) - An Indonesian court rejected on Monday a last-ditch challenge by two Australian drug convicts facing execution by firing squad, but lawyers for the state and defense were divided over whether legal avenues remained for them to avoid the death penalty.
Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were convicted in 2006 as the ringleaders of a plot to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia.
They had both challenged the Jakarta administrative court’s decision not to hear an appeal against President Joko Widodo’s refusal to grant them clemency.
“There is no more legal recourse,” Novarida, head of the state lawyers team, told reporters after the verdicts were delivered dryly in a court packed with lawyers and journalists.
However, the pair’s lawyer said they would take their case to the constitutional court.
“They have the right to live, and the state attorney knows that (the law) allows them to defend their lives,” Leonard Arpan told reporters.
The Australians are among 10 drug convicts due to be executed by firing squad on the prison island of Nusakambangan. Others in the group include citizens of France, Brazil, the Philippines, Ghana, Nigeria and Indonesia.
Widodo denied clemency to the convicts despite repeated pleas from Australia, Brazil and France.
Australia’s minister for foreign affairs, Julie Bishop, voiced disappointment at the latest setback and said in a statement that Canberra would continue to use all diplomatic options to seek a stay of execution.
Sukumaran and Chan, who were not in court on Monday, had sought in February to challenge the president’s blanket rejection, with their lawyers arguing that he did not give due consideration to each case.
But the administrative court originally dismissed their case on the grounds it did not have the legal authority to assess it.
The attorney general is awaiting the outcome of legal appeals by three remaining death row inmates before setting a date for executions. His office’s spokesman has previously said the intention is for all the executions to be carried out together, but they could be conducted in batches.
Indonesia has harsh penalties for drug trafficking and resumed executions in 2013 after a five-year gap.
Widodo has pledged no mercy for drug offenders, saying Indonesia faces a “drug emergency”. The country is a major destination for drugs trafficked in the region.
Australia has made repeated calls for mercy on behalf of Sukumaran and Chan, but Widodo has refused to change his stand, turning down an offer of a one-off prisoner exchange and to have the Australian government bear the cost of the convicts serving life sentences.
“Where there is life there is hope,” Mercy Campaign, a group collecting signatures for a petition to Widodo, said on its Facebook page after the latest ruling. “We will continue to respectfully ask the president to change his mind.”
Sukumaran and Chan were identified as leaders of a group of nine Australians arrested on the resort island of Bali in 2005 and convicted of attempting to smuggle some 18 lb (8 kg) of heroin to Australia. Other members of the group have been sentenced to long prison terms.
Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Paul Tait, Robert Birsel