Australian drug smugglers taken to Indonesian island for execution

An amoured vehicle, believed to be carrying Australian death row prisoners Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, leaving Kerobokan Prison for the airport in Denpasar, Bali, on March 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
An amoured vehicle, believed to be carrying Australian death row prisoners Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, leaving Kerobokan Prison for the airport in Denpasar, Bali, on March 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

CILACAP, Indonesia (AFP) - Two Australian drug smugglers were transferred on Wednesday to an Indonesian island where they will be executed, as Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australia was "revolted" by their looming deaths after frantic diplomatic efforts to save them.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" drug smuggling gang, were woken and given a few minutes to get ready before leaving Bali's Kerobokan jail in the early hours, said local justice ministry official Nyoman Putra Surya.

The men, sentenced to death in 2006 for trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia, said "thank you" before leaving, and "we handcuffed them and they were quiet", he added.

Chan attempted to see his brother Andrew before the transfer but prison officials denied him entry, with Surya saying the decision was taken because "today is not visiting day".

More than 200 police and soldiers as well as water cannon were stationed outside the Bali prison as the men, in their early 30s, were driven out through a scrum of journalists.

The pair were flown to Cilacap on Java island on a chartered flight accompanied by military aircraft. Two armoured vehicles escorted by elite police then boarded a boat at the local port which crossed to Nusakambangan island, home to several high security prisons and where the pair will be executed, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

The men recently lost their appeals for presidential clemency, typically a death row convict's last chance to avoid the firing squad. Officials have yet to announce a date for their executions, but the transfer indicates it is imminent.

Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo said on Wednesday that final preparations, such as training the firing squads, were still being made before a date could be set for execution of the Australians and several other drugs offenders.

Authorities must give convicts 72 hours notice before they are executed. Convicts from France, Brazil, the Philippines, Nigeria and Ghana also recently lost appeals for clemency, and speculation is mounting that they will be included in the next round of executions.

- 'Sick in their guts' -

Abbott, who has repeatedly called for Jakarta not to proceed with the executions, said Australians were sickened by the developments.

"We frankly are revolted by the prospect of these executions," he said, adding that "right now millions of Australians are feeling sick in their guts".

Abbott said he hoped there might be a "change of heart in Indonesia", but added: "What I don't want, though, is to hold out false hope." However, he added: "I hope that even at this late hour, the better angels of the Indonesian peoples' nature will reassert themselves."

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told parliament she had spoken to the families of Chan and Sukumaran and they were "devastated". Attorney-General George Brandis said the government had made at least 22 representations to Indonesian officials since January.

President Joko Widodo has been unswayed by the barrage of international appeals, insisting that Indonesia is facing an "emergency" due to rising narcotics use, and Prasetyo reiterated the government's tough line.

"We want to... send a message to all parties and to the international community that Indonesia is working hard to battle drug crimes," he said.

Indonesia executed six people, including five foreigners, in January, sparking a diplomatic storm as Brazil and the Netherlands - whose citizens were among those put to death - recalled their ambassadors.

Officials have said that gathering convicts on Nusakambangan is the final stage before the executions. Some are already on the island.

The Australians' lawyers have launched a series of last-ditch legal bids to stop the executions, urging authorities not to put the men to death while the legal process is still ongoing.

Brazil and France have also ramped up pressure, with Paris summoning Indonesia's envoy and the Brazilian president refusing to accept the credentials of the new Indonesian ambassador.

The Filipina facing execution, Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, has lodged an application for a judicial review of her case, a move previously attempted unsuccessfully by the Australians.

On Wednesday, a district court near Yogyakarta, on Java, decided that the Supreme Court should make a ruling on whether to go forward with the appeal, as it did not have the authority.

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