Australia PM 'has done all he can' for Indonesia death row inmates

Matius Arif, an evangelist from Abbalove Church holds an open letter written by death-row prisoner Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan after visiting them at Kerobokan Prison in Bali, Indonesia, on Feb 5 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
Matius Arif, an evangelist from Abbalove Church holds an open letter written by death-row prisoner Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan after visiting them at Kerobokan Prison in Bali, Indonesia, on Feb 5 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA

SYDNEY (AFP) - Two Australians facing imminent execution in Indonesia issued Thursday a last-ditch plea for their lives, but Prime Minister Tony Abbott and their lawyers admitted the situation was looking bleak.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" drug smuggling gang, lost a legal bid in the Balinese capital Denpasar to have their cases reviewed Wednesday, dashing their final hope of avoiding the firing squad.

They were arrested in 2005 and sentenced to death the following year for attempting to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia.

Mr Abbott said his government had "left no stone unturned" in the bid to save them.

"We oppose the death penalty, we do whatever we humanly can to try to ensure that no Australian suffers the death penalty," he told reporters.

"We are not going to engage in last-minute, megaphone diplomacy but I just want to assure people that the Australian government has left no stone unturned to try to ensure that these two Australians on death row have their sentences commuted."

Chan and Sukumaran's lawyers based their argument for a reprieve on past legal errors, and said the pair had been rehabilitated and this should be considered.

The pair's Australian lawyer Julian McMahon said he would work to continue their legal fight despite the setback.

"The basis of the application actually was that there was error of law so what we're looking at now are the legal options that flow from that, but there's no doubt the situation is bleak," he told ABC radio.

In a fresh bid to avoid the firing squad, the pair on Thursday wrote an open letter to the Indonesian authorities, begging for a moratorium on the death penalty.

"We beg for moratorium so we can have chance to serve to Indonesia community (sic)," read the letter, which was shown to reporters on Bali and bore the men's signatures.

"We believe in Indonesia legal system that bring justice and humanity."

Despite his image as a reformist, Indonesia's new President Joko Widodo has been a vocal supporter of capital punishment for drug offenders, disappointing rights activists who had hoped that he would take a softer line on the death penalty.

Last month Indonesia executed six drug offenders, including five foreigners, prompting Brazil and the Netherlands - whose citizens were among those put to death - to recall their ambassadors.

Mr McMahon said Chan and Sukumaran had been "just caught up in a giant political move here, and the merits of my clients' cases don't seem to be being given the attention that they deserve".

Mr Abbott has appealed for Jakarta not to go ahead with the executions but Mr Widodo, known as Jokowi, reiterated his tough line Wednesday that traffickers would not be granted clemency.

No date has been set for their executions although Australian media reports suggest they could be put to death within a fortnight.