Sunday, June 10, 2012

Corby decision will make clemency on death row difficult

THE two Australians on death row in Indonesia will find it harder to have their death sentences commuted as a political and legal backlash grows against Schapelle Corby's successful appeal for clemency, legal experts say.

Hard-line anti-drugs body Granat has launched a challenge in Jakarta's administrative court against the Indonesian President's decision to cut Corby's sentence by five years to 15 years.
The lawsuit comes after a furious campaign of opposition by judges, ministers and the media against the president's clemency decision. Critics have accused President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of bowing to Australian political pressure, of ignoring the country's strict drug laws and of being inconsistent, after he said in 2006 he would not grant clemency in drugs cases.

Australian academic Tim Lindsey said ''the amount of political pressure will make SBY think twice about the other people who are asking for clemency, including those on death row''. 

Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran face the death penalty for their role in a 2005 attempt to smuggle heroin out of Bali. Lawyers have already lodged Chan's appeal for clemency with Mr Yudhoyono, and the deadline for Sukumaran's appeal is next month.

An Indonesian lawyer, who asked not to named, agreed it would make a successful clemency appeal for Chan and Sukumaran less likely. 

Australian lawyer Julian McMahon, had earlier said the president's grant of clemency to Corby was a good sign for his clients because it showed his flexibility. Mr McMahon said yesterday: ''We welcome any informed debate'', but said there were ''striking differences'' between Corby and his clients.

The first difference between the two cases was ''sincere confessions and regret for the crime'', and the second was ''years of intense work in the prison to assist educating and rehabilitating other prisoners''.

''The details of Ms Corby's clemency and the new court case won't affect those distinguishing features,'' Mr McMahon said.

Todung Mulya Lubis, the men's Indonesian lawyer, would not be drawn yesterday on whether the backlash had increased the level of difficulty, saying only, ''we are pushing ahead with the case''.
A glimmer of hope for Chan and Sukumaran, however, can be found in the case lodged this week against Corby.

Their lawyers have argued that, because Corby was not under a sentence of death, she was in no need of humanitarian aid under the clemency law. The argument suggests that even the opponents of Corby's clemency might believe it is more reasonable in a death penalty case.

The lawyer taking the Granat case, Yusril Ihza Mahendra, is a former justice minister and has won a number of cases in the past by challenging decisions by Mr Yudhoyono, including overturning his appointment of an attorney-general in 2010.

He will argue Mr Yudhoyono's decision was invalid because he had failed to explain it, it was against the ''spirit'' of narcotics law, and it undermined Indonesia's commitments under the 1988 UN Convention on drugs.

Professor Lindsey said it appeared to be a weak case, but reflected Indonesia's politics, where many people now sought a platform by attacking Mr Yudhoyono, whose term as president expires in 2014. Michael Bachelard for Sydney Morning Herald

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