Australians could boycott Indonesia over executions: Minister

Australian tourists could boycott Indonesia if Jakarta executes two drug smugglers on death row, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop warned Friday, refusing to rule out withdrawing diplomats.

AFP| Last Updated: Feb 13, 2015, 13:36 PM IST

Sydney: Australian tourists could boycott Indonesia if Jakarta executes two drug smugglers on death row, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop warned Friday, refusing to rule out withdrawing diplomats.

Bishop, who pleaded for the lives of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in Australia`s parliament Thursday, said the situation was tense as Indonesian authorities made plans to transfer the pair from prison to the site of their execution.

"It`s a very tense situation," she told Fairfax radio.

Vigils have been held around Australia -- which does not support the death penalty -- to plead for mercy, and Bishop said if they faced the firing squad it could influence whether Australians took holidays in Indonesia.

She warned Jakarta against underestimating the strength of public feeling for the pair, sentenced to death in 2006 for attempting to mastermind the trafficking of more than eight kilogrammes (17.6 pounds) of heroin out of Bali into Australia.

"I`ve been overwhelmed with emails and text messages, I know that people have been staging vigils and rallies," she said.

"I think the Australian people will demonstrate their deep disapproval of this action, including by making decisions about where they wish to holiday."

The Indonesian island of Bali is a key holiday destination for Australians.

Asked whether Australia would consider withdrawing officials from Indonesia if the men are executed, Bishop said: "This is a matter still to be considered.

"My concern is that we want the lines of communication between our ambassador and the Indonesian government to remain open," she added.

Bishop said she was not giving up hope on Chan and Sukumaran, ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" heroin smugglers who were arrested in 2005.

But she noted that after five years of no executions in Indonesia, new President Joko Widodo had made it clear that "they will continue to execute those on death row".

"Executing these two young men will not solve the drug scourge in Indonesia," she said.

Jakarta executed six drug offenders last month, including five foreigners, triggering a diplomatic storm as Brazil and the Netherlands -- whose citizens were among those killed -- withdrew their ambassadors.

Widodo has been a vocal supporter of capital punishment and has vowed a tough approach to ending what he has called Indonesia`s "drug emergency". He rejected clemency appeals from Sukumaran and Chan.

Indonesia`s Attorney General HM Prasetyo reiterated Jakarta`s tough stance, saying: "We have judicial sovereignty that should be appreciated and respected by all sides."

But he said it was Canberra`s right to "firmly reject" the death penalty. Australian artist Ben Quilty, who has become close to both men over the past four years, admitted the situation was grim after an Indonesian official said Thursday the pair would be transferred "as soon as possible" to their execution site.

Indonesia has said they will be killed outside Bali on Nusakambangan Island, which is off the main island of Java and home to a high-security prison. Six drug convicts were executed there last month.

"I think hope has sort of gone from them now and they are just trying to work out how they are going to cope with what`s coming," Quilty told Fairfax radio, adding that he said his final goodbyes in Bali`s Kerobokan prison on Thursday.

"Yesterday was the first time I really saw Myu broken."

Quilty said Sukumaran told him his room had been raided for the first time several days ago, and officials removed the internal lock for the door.

"I assume so they can come and take him when they`re ready to take him," Quilty said.

"To torture him this way, emotionally torture him, and drag this process out is the most barbaric thing."

Chan, 31, and Sukumaran, 33, have spent the past decade in Kerokoban, running classes for fellow inmates in such subjects as English, painting and computer skills.

Chan has completed a theology degree in prison and is now a pastor who provides religious counselling to fellow prisoners, while Sukumaran is close to finishing a degree in fine arts and is reportedly painting a final self-portrait of himself at Nusakambangan, featuring a "stormy sky".