Bali Nine: calls for mercy fail

01 May 2015

DEMOTIX

Prayers: a candlelit vigil for the Bali Nine is held in Australia on Tuesday

Prayers: a candlelit vigil for the Bali Nine is held in Australia on Tuesday

APPEALS for clemency failed to save the lives of eight men convicted as part of a drug-running group known as the Bali Nine.

Among the eight, executed by a firing squad on Tuesday, on the Indonesian prison island of Nusa Kambangan, were two Australians: Andrew Chan, and Myuran Sukumaran. Both had become Christians while in prison, after their convictions for drug trafficking in 2006.

A regional bishop in Melbourne, the Rt Revd Philip Huggins, was among those who pleaded with the Indonesian government to show mercy (News, 6 February). The "remarkable rehabilitation" facilitated by the Indonesian authorities "further underscores the cruel folly of execution", he said.

"The tragedy is taking those reformed, rehabilitated people who are doing work that actually works in Indonesia's favour, and then taking them out and executing them," Pastor Rob Buckingham, a spiritual adviser to the two men, told ABC news after their execution.                     

Mr Chan, who married his fiancée on the eve of his execution, was ordained in prison. He had "effectively been leading the church inside Kerobokan Prison now for a number of years", Mr Buckingham said.

"I think, for both of them, the strength of their faith came shining through. They realised that they had done the wrong thing in the past. They accepted the fact that they were caught and incarcerated. They've both completely reformed their own lives, and were working very strongly at reforming others."

A Filipina woman, Mary Jane Veloso, who was also among the Bali Nine, wasd given an 11th-hour reprieve and not executed.

The RC Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Revd Anthony Fisher OP, spoke on Wednesday of his joint appeal for clemency with the Grand Mufti of Australia, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed.

"We made it clear that we respected Indonesia's sovereignty and shared its condemnation of drug trafficking," Archbishop Fisher said. "But refusing even to entertain appeals for mercy - even after the pair had demonstrably turned their lives around - seemed to us to damage our neighbour's reputation for justice."

The Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, announced the recall of the ambassador from Jakarta on Wednesday morning, describing the executions as "cruel and unnecessary".

Reports have emerged that the eight men declined to be blindfolded, and sang hymns, including "Amazing grace", before their execution.

"They were praising their God," Pastor de Vega, who was present on the island, told Fairfax Media. "It was breathtaking. This was the first time I witnessed someone so excited to meet their God."

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