Canberra, Australia, Feb 12, 2015 / 02:03 am
With two of their nationals on Indonesia's death row over drug trafficking offenses, the Australian bishops are appealing to the government to stay their executions by firing squad, believed to be imminent.
Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were in a group of nine Australians arrested in Bali in 2005 with more than 18 lb of heroin. Their fellow drug traffickers were sentenced to life in prison, but in 2006 they were given the death penalty.
"Justice must prevail and appropriate punishment used for the common good for our societies when such crimes are committed," Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne wrote in a recent letter to Joko Widodo, the Indonesian president.
"However, we believe that jail sentences, not execution, are the more appropriate means of punishing offenders and deterring those who would consider committing such crimes," Archbishop Hart wrote.
"Our concern for the sacredness of life motivates this plea for clemency."
During their ten years on death row, it is reported that the two prisoners have been helping other inmates in Kerobokan Prison. Sukumaran helps in teaching art, and Chen is studying to be a pastor.
Archbishop Hart noted Chan and Sukumaran's remorse and reformation, writing that they have "initiated education programs with the intention of supporting and reforming other prisoners."
"This is a testimony to the opportunity for rehabilitation afforded by time in Indonesia's penal system and to the commitment of these two men to make a positive contribution to the lives of fellow inmates and to the broader Indonesian community," said Archbishop Hart.
The prisoners' clemency appeals have already been rejected by Widodo, and they are among the next group to be executed.
Indonesia resumed the death penalty in 2013, and regularly executes drug traffickers, including those who are foreign nationals; six were put to death last month. Indonesian officials claim that 40 to 50 of their citizens die daily because of drug overdoses.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney issued a joint statement Feb. 8 with Ibrahim Abu Mohammed, of the Australian National Imams' Council, pleading clemency for Chan and Sukumaran "to allow them to be further rehabilitated and to make reparation to the communities they betrayed by their crimes."
"Our request today is for clemency or a commuted sentence for Andrew and Myuran so as to allow them to be further rehabilitated; to execute would prematurely end these lives, robbing both of them and our communities of the opportunity for ongoing repentance and rehabilitation," they said.
"We acknowledge that illegal drugs tear at the social fabric of all communities and we applaud the efforts of the Indonesian government to protect its society-and indeed ours-from drug smuggling," they added.
"Our plea today to the President and people of Indonesia is on the basis of their apparent remorse and repentance for a crime they committed nearly ten years ago. By all accounts Andrew and Myuran have come to appreciate clearly the gravity of their crimes."