Families visit Australian drug smugglers on Indonesian death row

CILACAP, Indonesia (AFP) - The families of two Australian drug smugglers facing imminent execution in Indonesia visited them on Monday on the prison island.

Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, the ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" drug smuggling gang, were sentenced to death in 2006 for trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia.

Early on Monday, their relatives arrived at Cilacap, the port town on Java that is the gateway to Nusakambangan, as they headed to see Chan and Sukumaran.

"We're fairly excited to go see Andy today," Andrew's brother Michael told reporters.

"It's been a few days. We're just looking forward to see him when we get over there, giving him a hug."

Sukumaran's brother Chinthu said he and his mother Raji and sister Brintha "have been waiting, counting down the days".

"We've been told he's doing well, so we just want to see him for ourselves, just to make sure, and let him know that we love him."

The families, escorted by consular officials, spent around four hours on the island before returning to Cilacap. They left the port in three vehicles, passing waiting journalists without stopping to speak.They will next be able to visit the prison again on Wednesday.

The two Australians recently lost their appeals for presidential clemency, typically the final chance to avoid the firing squad, and are expected to be executed soon with other foreign drug convicts.

They were moved last week from their jail on Bali, where they have been held for years, to Nusakambangan prison island off Java, where the executions will take place.

Foreign drug convicts from France, Brazil, the Philippines, Nigeria and Ghana also recently lost their appeals for presidential clemency, and are expected to be executed at the same time as the Australians on Nusakambangan.

A lawyer for Chan and Sukumaran said at the weekend that a court will on Thursday hear the latest legal appeal by the pair.

They had sought to challenge President Joko Widodo's decision to reject their pleas for clemency - but a Jakarta court last month dismissed that bid. Their lawyers have now lodged an appeal against that decision.

Widodo, who took office in October, has been a vocal supporter of the death penalty for drug convicts, saying that Indonesia is facing an "emergency" due to rising narcotics use.

But at the weekend, he said that he might be open to abolishing the death penalty in future, if the public were in favour.