Indonesia court rejects last-ditch appeal by Australian drug convicts on death row

Indonesia's state administrative court on Monday turned down an appeal by two Australian drug traffickers on death row who challenged President Joko Widodo's rejection of their clemency plea without giving a reason.

Andrew Chan, 31, and Myuran Sukumaran, 34, had filed a petition through lawyers in February claiming that the president's rejection of clemency without giving a reason was a breach of justice. The state administrative court rules on petitions or complaints filed by anyone against the government or any state apparatus.

"Rejection of presidential clemency cannot be appealed at the state administrative court," judge Ujang Abdullah said.

Mr Leonard Aritonang, a lawyer for the Australians, told reporters that he would seek a Constitutional Court review of the law surrounding presidential clemency. 

"We will ask the constitutional court to redefine and emphasise what the President's obligation is in relations to clemency,'' he said.

Another of their lawyer, Mr Todung Mulya Lubis, had earlier told The Straits Times that Mr Joko has an obligation to explain why he rejected granting the clemency, although clemency is the President's prerogative.

Chan and Sukumaran were sentenced to death in February 2006 after they were found to have plotted to smuggle more than 8kg of heroin with a street value of A$4 million (S$4.12 million) into Australia from Bali. 

They have been in jail for 10 years and their lawyers say they have reformed and regretted the crime they committed.

Mr Todung had argued that each clemency request should be considered individually.

"If a convict has served in jail for 10 years, evaluation must be made to see whether he has changed, reformed. Any significant progress must be considered in the assessment of individual clemency requests," Mr Todung told The Straits Times in early March. 

The planned executions of the two Australians and eight others on death row have drawn mixed reactions in Indonesia, with rights groups appealing for an end to capital punishment and anti-drug groups calling for swift action.

Mr Joko has repeatedly defended his decision  to reject clemency for foreigners on death row for drug smuggling, telling the local media that Indonesia is in a state of emergency for illicit drugs, with more than 4 million people needing rehabilitation.

Wahyudis@sph.com.sg