Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Indonesia’s Top judge favoured Bali Nine appeal

INDONESIA'S most senior judge last January revealed he wanted to uphold the appeal by death row members of the Bali Nine heroin gang, saying they had lost out because of anger over drug trafficking in Indonesia.

The vote of Constitutional Court chairman Jimly Asshiddiqie would not have changed the outcome of the split 6-3 decision, but a 5-4 result would have significantly strengthened any later appeal by three of the Australian gang's members.

Justice Asshiddiqie told a public forum he had thrown his support in with the anti- camp last October because he did not believe that as chief of the bench, he should be in the minority group.

Gang leaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, as well as courier Scott Rush, tested the constitutionality of Indonesia's death sentence in their case last year, arguing that the punishment violated guarantees given elsewhere in the nation's foundation document to protect human rights.

The Australians' lawyers suggested immediately after the decision in October that they had taken heart from the strength of the 6-3 split, and could use it as the basis for an extraordinary appeal in the Supreme Court.

The Australians would still have to convince the Supreme Court this was significant enough to constitute new evidence worth reopening the case for.

However, Justice Asshiddiqie's aside boosted that argument significantly.

Justice Asshiddiqie suggested that if the Australian traffickers could delay their executions for long enough - perhaps another decade - they might find a judiciary more sympathetic to abolishing capital punishment.

But he said the 6-3 decision by the nine-member bench was a broad reflection of social concerns over drug use.

It's maybe because the case was related to narkoba (narcotics), and that's something that people are really angry about," said the suave judge, who was nominated as Globe Asia magazine's man of the year for 2008.

And this was reflected in the positions of the nine judges - but maybe in 10 years they'll be ready to adopt the new way of thinking.

Six of the nine Australian gang members, all being held in Bali's Kerobokan jail, are due to be executed by firing squad once their appeal possibilities have been exhausted.

The only remaining block between them and their executioners would then be President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono granting clemency - although the Indonesian leader has repeatedly made clear that he opposes this option for drug crimes.

By Stephen Fitzpatrick From: The Australian

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