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Indonesia Courts Sentence Two Australian Drugs Smugglers to Death

Two Australian drug traffickers have been sentenced to death by judges in Indonesia for their leading roles in a plot to smuggle more than eight kilograms of heroin from the island of Bali. The sentences came despite a request from the Australian foreign minister to avoid the death penalty.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran showed little emotion when they learned that they could face a firing squad.

But as Judge Arif Supratman told Chan of his death sentence, a group of anti-drug activists in the courtroom cheered and shouted "death."

Chan organized a plot to smuggle heroin out of the country and Sukumaran was the gang's enforcer. After weeks of stonewalling, Chan pleaded for mercy in his final statement to the court last month, saying he had found God since he had been imprisoned last April. Sukumaran has neither asked for mercy nor expressed regret.

Indonesia is in the middle of a high-profile campaign against illegal drugs, and unleashing the full weight of the law on those found guilty is meant to send a message to other potential smugglers.

Four other members of so-called "Bali nine" - eight men and a woman - have so far been given life sentences for their roles in the plan. Three others are due to be sentenced Wednesday.

The trials have been watched closely in Australia, where there is strong opposition to the death penalty. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer wrote to Indonesia's attorney general saying he would not like to see any of the group sentenced to death. He said his government would appeal for clemency.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said Tuesday that felt very sorry for the parents of the convicted men. But he urged Australians to learn the serious consequences of drug smuggling and realize that their government could not change the laws of another country.

If they choose, Chan and Sukumaran have at least three levels of appeals before they are in danger of facing a firing squad. However, Indonesia has shown that it is willing to impose harsh sanctions on drug smugglers: two Thais and an Indian, all whom were convicted of carrying heroin, have been executed in the past two years.