Pubdate: Sat, 07 Jan 2006
Source: Australian, The (Australia)
Copyright: 2006sThe Australian
Author: AAP
Bookmark: (Heroin)


INDONESIA is braced for a public backlash in Australia against any 
death sentences meted out to the Bali Nine, says Foreign Minister 
Hassan Wirayuda.

Prosecutors in Denpasar will start making sentence demands in the 
next fortnight for the nine Australians, who were arrested in April 
last year over a failed bid to smuggle 8kg of heroin worth $4 million 
from Bali to Sydney.

Most trial watchers expect them to demand death sentences for some or 
all of the group, possibly straining relations with Australia. The 
requests to judges in Denpasar District Court will be delivered less 
than two months after a public outcry in Australia over Singapore's 
decision to hang Australian drug courier Nguyen Tuong Van.

Mr Wirayuda, speaking after his annual foreign policy statement, said 
he was aware of the backlash in Australia to Van's hanging, including 
Attorney-General Philip Ruddock's description of the execution as "barbaric".

"We anticipate in terms of bilateral relations between Indonesia and 
Australia that the sentence that might be delivered by our courts 
might create an emotional reaction on the part of the Australian 
public," Mr Wirayuda said.

But he said any fallout from death sentences would be likely to pass 
quickly. "Like the case of the Australian citizen in Singapore, I 
think after a while there will be a good understanding, because it is 
not only that the death penalty is imposed to Australians, but also 
to other traffickers, both foreign and domestic," he said.

Mr Wirayuda recently described relations between Jakarta and Canberra 
as at an all-time high following the 1999 nadir after a bloody 
rampage by Jakarta-backed militias in East Timor during a vote that 
led to the territory's independence.

"Australia recognises Papua as part of the unitary state of 
Indonesia, so there are no more obstacles in the two countries' 
relations," he said.

He added that the legal process in Bali was a domestic affair for 
Indonesia alone, a position well understood by the Australian 
Government. "They understand that in Indonesian positive law the 
death penalty is there and in practice our courts often impose the 
death penalty for serious offences like drug trafficking," Mr Wirayuda said.

Van, 25, was hanged at Singapore's Changi prison despite repeated 
pleas for clemency from the Australian Government. He was convicted 
of carrying almost 400g of heroin at Singapore airport while 
travelling from Cambodia to Australia.

Lawyers for the Bali Nine have called on the federal Government to 
begin lobbying Indonesia for clemency immediately.

But Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has refused, saying the court 
process should be left to run its course before Australia lodges any appeals.
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