February 17, 2015 / 7:02 AM / 4 years ago

Indonesia delays transfer of two Australian drug offenders for execution

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia has postponed the transfer of five convicts, two Australian drug offenders among them, to another prison for execution, prompted by medical concerns and families’ requests for more time with the prisoners, authorities said on Tuesday.

Australian death row prisoners Andrew Chan (C) and Myuran Sukumaran (L) are seen in a holding cell waiting to attend a review hearing in the District Court of Denpasar on the Indonesian island of Bali, in this October 8, 2010 picture taken by Antara Foto. REUTERS/Nyoman Budhiana/Antara Foto

Australia has been pursuing an eleventh-hour campaign to save the lives of Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31, two members of the so-called Bali Nine, convicted in 2005 as the ringleaders of a plot to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia.

Indonesia has harsh penalties for drug trafficking and resumed executions in 2013 after a five-year gap. Five foreigners were among six people executed last month, the first executions since President Joko Widodo took office in October.

The two Australians were among a group due to be moved this week from prison in Bali to a maximum security prison at Nusakambangan Island in central Java, ahead of the execution by firing squad.

“The executions are, until today, on schedule which means there are no cancellations,” said Tony Spontana, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office.

“The change is only in the transfer (of the prisoners). This is our response to requests by the Australian government and the families to give them more time.”

It was not clear when the prisoners would be moved or when the executions would take place.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have appealed to Indonesia not to execute the prisoners on death row for drug crimes, among them citizens of Australia, Brazil, France, Ghana, Indonesia, Nigeria and the Philippines.

Indonesia’s president, however, has defended its right to use capital punishment against drug convicts and has denied requests for clemency.

The case has enormous resonance as a domestic political issue in Australia, and Abbott ratcheted up the rhetoric at the weekend amid a growing campaign to boycott travel to Bali, a destination favored by Australian tourists.

Spontana said prison officials needed more time to arrange the executions of a large number of convicts at the same time.

“The location makes it difficult to execute more than five inmates, so the size of the location and the isolation cells will be adapted,” he said.

The transfer of a Brazilian convict was also delayed for a medical examination after the prisoner showed signs of “psychological stress”.

Writing by Randy Fabi; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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