Indonesia`s Widodo `considering position` on death row Australians

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Thursday offered a glimmer of hope for two men facing imminent execution in Indonesia after phoning President Joko Widodo, who he said was "carefully considering his position".

AFP| Last Updated: Feb 26, 2015, 16:10 PM IST

Sydney: Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Thursday offered a glimmer of hope for two men facing imminent execution in Indonesia after phoning President Joko Widodo, who he said was "carefully considering his position".

Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" drug smuggling gang, were arrested for trying to traffic heroin out of Indonesia in 2005 and sentenced to death the following year.

Their appeals for presidential clemency, typically the final chance of avoiding the firing squad, were recently rejected by Widodo, and a court this week dismissed a bid to challenge that decision.

The looming executions by firing squad have dramatically heightened tensions between Australia and Indonesia, fraying ties that were only just recovering from a spying row, when Abbott called his counterpart on Wednesday evening.

"Well, it was a positive sign that the conversation took place," said Abbott, who last week angered some in Indonesia by reminding Jakarta of the aid Canberra had provided during natural disasters.

"The fact that the president of Indonesia and the prime minister of Australia can talk candidly about these issues is a sign of the strength of the relationship and it`s a sign of the depth of the friendship between Australia and Indonesia."

He said it would not help Chan and Sukumaran to detail his talks but "suffice to say that the president absolutely understands our position," adding that Widodo "is carefully considering Indonesia`s position."

Indonesia`s foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir declined to comment on the detail of the call, but said he understood the efforts made by Australia to represent its citizens, adding that "dialogue between Australia and Indonesia has never been closed".

"When we have open communication, which we do with Australia, this helps in ensuring that our bilateral relationships remain intact even in the most difficult of situations or times," he said.

Widodo insisted this week that other nations must not interfere in Indonesia`s right to use the death penalty and Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo on Wednesday said preparations for a new round of executions were "about 90 percent" complete.

Prasetyo said that 10 drug convicts would be included in the next round and the final step before the executions would be their transfer from several cities to Nusakambangan, an island off Java where they will be put to death.The Australians are among a group of foreigners, including a Frenchman and a Brazilian, facing imminent execution.

Brazil and France have also been ramping up pressure on Jakarta, with Paris summoning Indonesia`s envoy and the Brazilian president refusing to accept the credentials of the new Indonesian ambassador.

On Thursday the wife of the Frenchman facing execution, Serge Atlaoui, said she was hopeful about an application that her husband had filed for a judicial review of his death sentence.

"I really want to convey all the hope we are placing in this judicial review," Sabine Atlaoui said at a press conference at the French embassy in Jakarta.

"We are convinced that it will allow my husband to show his good faith" and allow their family to return to their past lives, she added, her voice choked with emotion.

Serge Atlaoui, a 51-year-old father of four, was arrested near Jakarta in 2005 in a secret laboratory producing ecstasy. He was initially jailed for life but the Supreme Court increased his sentence to death in 2007.

The first court hearing of his judicial review is scheduled for March 11.