Australia says executing Bali Nine pair will be 'grave injustice'

Australia says executing Bali Nine pair will be 'grave injustice'
In this file photograph taken on February 14, 2006 show Australian drug traffickers Andrew Chan (L) and Myuran Sukumaran (R), the ringleaders of the "Bali Nine" drug ring.

SYDNEY - Australia stepped up pressure on Indonesia Thursday to spare the lives of two drug smugglers facing the firing squad, with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop warning their execution would be a grave injustice.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the Australian ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" heroin drug smuggling gang, were arrested in 2005 and sentenced to death the following year.

The pair recently lost their final appeals for clemency to Indonesian President Joko Widodo despite arguing they had rehabilitated themselves in prison. They could face the firing squad this month.

In an emotional speech in parliament, Bishop pleaded for their lives.

"This motion goes to the heart of what we believe will be a grave injustice against two Australian citizens facing execution in Indonesia," she said, adding that the pair made "shocking mistakes" but deserved another chance.

"We are not understating the gravity of the nature of these crimes.

"Without doubt, Andrew and Myuran need to pay for their crimes with lengthy jail sentences but they should not need to pay with their lives." Indonesian authorities have already informed Canberra they intend to proceed with the executions, despite public appeals from Bishop and Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Lawyers for the men on Wednesday lodged a rare legal challenge to the president's decision to reject their appeals for clemency, taking the unusual step of challenging Widodo's decision to refuse them a pardon.

Indonesian authorities have repeatedly said the appeal for clemency is a death row convict's final chance to avoid the firing squad, but the men's lawyers believe their move could at least delay the executions.

"Our shared hope is the Indonesian government and its people will show mercy to Andrew and Myuran," said Bishop.

"Both men have made extraordinary efforts to rehabilitate. Andrew and Myuran are the model of what penal systems the world over long to achieve." In Jakarta, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi offered little hope.

"The government has consistently carried out its policies related to the problem of drug crimes," she told reporters "In the past Indonesia was a transit country, now Indonesia has become one of the biggest destinations for drug trafficking. Of course, we must ask whether we can let this crime continue. What is the price to be paid by Indonesia's young generation?" She said she had spoken twice to Bishop on the phone and that Bishop had also written to her twice.

"I said to Julie that this is not against any one country... this is against a crime, against an extraordinary crime." Widodo has been a vocal supporter of capital punishment and warned Indonesia is facing a drugs emergency, with addictions and deaths on the rise.

The men's lawyers claim it is "unacceptable" for the president to use blanket arguments to refuse clemency.

Indonesia last month executed six drug offenders, including five from other countries.

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