Tue | Oct 16, 2018

Australia wary of escalating rift after Indonesia executions

Published:Thursday | April 30, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Angelita Muxfeldt, left, a cousin of Brazilian death row convict Rodrigo Gularte, touches Gularte's coffin at a funeral home in Jakarta, Indonesia, yesterday.
People hold candles to pray for death-row prisoners at Wijayapura port in Cilacap, Indonesia early yesterday.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott pauses as he speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia, yesterday.


Australia said it would withdraw its ambassador to Indonesia after two Australians were among eight drug traffickers executed by the Southeast Asian country yesterday, but was wary of escalating hostilities with its near neighbour despite a public outcry.

The executions by firing squad of the eight men: two Australians, four Nigerians, a Brazilian, and an Indonesian, attracted wide international condemnation and intense Australian media coverage.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said given that Indonesia has asked for clemency for its own nationals facing execution in other countries, "it is

incomprehensible why it absolutely refuses to grant clemency for lesser crimes on its own territory."

Unexpected joy

But there was unexpected joy in the Philippines, where the government won an 11th-hour stay of execution for a Philippine woman also on death row on a drug conviction.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose country has a pivotal but occasionally brittle relationship with Indonesia, reacted swiftly, announcing that Ambassador Paul Grigson would be recalled this week, even before the executions of Myuran Sukumaran, 33, and Andrew Chan, 31, were officially confirmed.

Australia, which has abolished capital punishment, had never before made such a move in retaliation for a citizen's execution.

"We respect Indonesia's sovereignty, but we do deplore what's been done, and this cannot be simply business as usual," Abbott told reporters.

Outraged Australians, meanwhile, called for a cut in foreign aid to Indonesia, less cooperation between the countries' police forces and a tourist boycott of the Indonesian resort island of Bali.