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15 Feb 2006 08:00
The “godfather” and “enforcer” of an Australian drug gang were sentenced to death on Tuesday by an Indonesian court for organising an attempt to smuggle more than 8,3kg of heroin from Bali to Sydney.
Two other members of the nine-strong gang, who were caught with drugs strapped to their bodies, were jailed for life, the same sentence received by two other mules received on Monday. The judges said neither Andrew Chan (22) the leader of the “Bali Nine”, nor his chief henchman, Myuran Sukumaran (24) had shown any remorse during their trials, which were conducted separately.
“There are no mitigating factors,” the chief judge, Arif Supratman, said when sentencing Chan, whom he described as the syndicate’s driving force.
“His statements throughout the trial were convoluted and he did not own up to his actions.”
He added: “According to the teachings of various religions, the death penalty can be justified.”
Sukumaran was described as “obstructive” when he was sentenced.
Neither man showed any emotion in court although Sukumaran scuffled with the scrum of reporters as he was led back to his cell.
There are three levels of appeal, including a plea for clemency to the president before they face the firing squad. Australia, which abolished the death penalty years ago, has said it would make “representations” on the men’s behalf to Jakarta if the appeals failed.
Chan was arrested last April at Bali airport on a Sydney-bound flight shortly after the four mules were caught with the drugs strapped to their bodies. Sukumaran and the three remaining gang members, who are expected to be sentenced to life in jail today, were detained at a Bali hotel an hour later preparing another consignment for shipping.
Anti-drugs activists cheered the verdicts, shouting “Long live the judges!” and “Death! Death!” as the sentences were read out at the court in Denpasar.
Unlike Schapelle Corby, an Australian beautician who was sentenced to 20 years last year after being caught at Bali airport with 4,1kg of marijuana in her luggage, the Bali Nine have garnered little sympathy in Australia.
The Prime Minister, John Howard, urged all young Australians to take notice of the sentence. “Can I just say to every young Australian, please take notice of this. I even beg them not to take the terrible risks that these young people have done, their lives destroyed in the case of two people,” he told reporters.
He added: “I feel desperately sorry for the parents of these people, I do. But the warnings have been there for decades and how on earth any young Australian can be so stupid as to take the risk is completely beyond me.”
Indonesia’s prisons hold many foreigners, with 20 of them on death row for drug offences. The country has executed at least five people since 2000 for various crimes.
Two Thais were executed for drug offences in October 2004, eight years after being convicted, and the Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has repeatedly said he wants to take a tough line on drug offences.
“The signal that should be understood and heard by the Australian people and drug traffickers abroad is: if you go to Indonesia, don’t bring illegal drugs,” said President Yudhoyono’s spokesperson, Dino Pati Djalal. - Guardian Unlimited Â
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