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Australian Police Defend Bali Nine Investigation

FILE - 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, October 8, 2010.

The Australian Federal Police has defended its cooperation with Indonesia in the case of two drug traffickers who were executed by firing squad last week. Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were part of a trafficking gang known as the Bali Nine and were sentenced to death for their part in a conspiracy to smuggle heroin a decade ago.

The Australian Federal Police, the AFP, held a news conference Monday to “set the record straight” over the Bali Nine.

The group of young Australians was arrested trying to smuggle more than eight kilograms of heroin from the Indonesia holiday island of Bali to Sydney in 2005. Seven members of the gang are serving long jail terms, while the ringleaders, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, were executed in Indonesia last week.

The AFP has denied accusations that it has “blood on its hands” over its cooperation with Indonesia on the Bali Nine. Senior officers have conceded they knew their actions a decade ago could expose individuals to the death penalty. They have stressed they have no reason to apologize for trying to stop the flow of illicit drugs into Australia.

Critics have insisted the gang could have been arrested before leaving Australia, but AFP commissioner Andrew Colvin said there was insufficient evidence to detain them. Although the force’s guidelines have been changed, Colvin has warned that investigations in the future could result in Australians facing the death penalty overseas.

“It is a hard reality that many of these countries still have the death penalty for serious offences. For this reason, we cannot limit our cooperation just to those countries that have a similar judicial system or similar policies to that of our own. We must be able to work effectively with those countries that are closest to us when you consider the region that we are a part of. Now, on the key question of could this happen again, I wish I could assure you that this scenario could never happen again, but I cannot,” said Colvin.

Supporters of Chan and Sukumaran said they had been rehabilitated and had become role models for other prisoners. Chan had become a Christian pastor behind bars, and Sukumaran an accomplished artist. They were executed last week along with condemned inmates from Brazil and Nigeria, prompting international outrage.

Australia has withdrawn its ambassador in protest. Indonesia has said the executions were part of its response to what it has called a “drugs emergency.”

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