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Fury in Australia as Drug Traffickers Executed in Indonesia

  • Phil Mercer

An ambulance carrying the coffin of a death row prisoner arrives at Wijayapura port after returning from the prison island of Nusakambangan in Cilacap, Central Java, Indonesia, early April 29, 2015.

An ambulance carrying the coffin of a death row prisoner arrives at Wijayapura port after returning from the prison island of Nusakambangan in Cilacap, Central Java, Indonesia, early April 29, 2015.

Australia has withdrawn its ambassador to Indonesia in protest of the executions of two convicted drug smugglers early Wednesday.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran died before a firing squad alongside six other death row inmates from Brazil, Nigeria and Indonesia. Authorities in Jakarta said the punishments are a vital part in its war on the drugs trade.

To their supporters, Chan and Sukumaran had atoned for their crimes of attempting to smuggle more than 8 kilograms of heroin from Indonesia to Australia. During almost a decade on death row, Chan had become a Christian pastor, and Sukumaran an accomplished artist.

Despite appeals for clemency, both men were executed by firing squad after midnight Wednesday in Indonesia.

Brazil expressed “deep regret” at the execution of its national, whose family insists was mentally ill.

Ambassador recalled

In Australia there is fury that the government’s pleas for mercy were ignored, and Prime Minister Tony Abbott said its ambassador to Indonesia is being brought home in protest.

“It is very unusual, indeed unprecedented, for an ambassador to be withdrawn, so I don't want to minimize the gravity of what we've done," Abbott said. "Ministerial contacts have been suspended for some time once it became apparent that the executions were likely, ministerial contacts were suspended and they will remain suspended for a period."

Despite Abbott’s displeasure, Australia acknowledges its relationship with Indonesia is one of its most important. Economic ties are crucial, as is the bilateral fight against extremism that has developed after 88 Australians died in terrorist bombings on the Indonesia island of Bali in 2002.

Indonesia said the executions were necessary as part of its war on drugs.

But President Joko Widodo is being accused by the independent Australian Senator Nick Xenophon of ordering the killings to boost his falling popularity at home.

“President Widodo is a pathetically weak leader who tried to prop up his popularity in Indonesia by going ahead with these executions,” Xenophon said.

A female prisoner from the Philippines was given a last-minute reprieve from the death penalty after a woman who allegedly duped her into carrying drugs to Indonesia came forward to police.

A Frenchman, who was originally among the group to be executed, was granted a temporary reprieve after Indonesian authorities agreed to allow a legal appeal to run its course.

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