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Kate Gibbons | 08.09.2006 05:29 | Analysis | Repression | Social Struggles | World

A look at the reasoning behind the unexpected upgraded death sentences for Matthew Norman (19yrs) the death sentence Scott Rush (20yrs),Tach Duc Thanh Nguyen (27yrs) and Si Yi Chen (20yrs)

Unexpected upgraded death sentences
Unexpected upgraded death sentences

With the recent news of another 4 young Australian's sentenced to death in Indonesia, this brings the total to 6.

As four of the Bali nine prisoners have their sentences upgraded to the death sentence, we need to look at the reasoning behind these sentences.

Prosecutors had clearly requested that their sentences were upgraded to life, it is unusual that the death sentence would be handed down at this stage for drug related offences. Schapelle Corby was the first victim of the political wranglings between Australia and Indonesia following her arrest in October, 2004. We now see 20-year-old Scott Rush, Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, 23, Si Yi Chen, 21, and 19-year-old Matthew Norman as yet more political pawns.

Do we have 4 young Australian’s that have been sentenced to death in retaliation for protection visas given to 42 west Papuan asylum seekers. Perhaps this is Indonesia’s retribution and warped act of vengeance for the jailing of illegal Indonesian fishermen and the burning of their boats. Political ties with Indonesia have been strained this year since Australia granted protection visas to 42 west Papuan asylum seekers, which clearly agitated the President of Indonesia, Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The Indonesian government immediately demanded the refugees be returned to Indonesia. Indonesian President Susilio Bambang Yudhoyono personally demanded that Prime Minister Howard returned the refugees.

Indonesia then stepped up the threats and Indonesia’s Ambassador to Australia was recalled. Five Indonesian warships were despatched to patrol the waters to prevent further refugees escaping.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is calling for calm, and understanding of Indonesian law amid condemnation of the death sentences imposed on four of the nine Australians convicted of drug smuggling last year.

While the families of the Bali Nine absorb the latest twist in the case, a Liberal backbencher has suggested Indonesia is in a greater hurry to execute Australian drug traffickers than it is to prosecute the Bali bombers and reiterated that the executions are quite barbaric.

As part of celebrations to mark Indonesia’s Independence Day, an Islamic militant convicted for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings has been freed from his prison cell, while 11 others jailed over the blasts received remissions.

In response to Downer’s call for calm, let’s not forget the Indonesian judiciary has openly been referred to as the most corrupt institution in Indonesia.

Illegal Indonesian fishermen on the Great Barrier Reef

The Last Frontier: Australia’s Maritime Territories and the Policing of Indonesian Fishermen

Indonesia threatens Australia over Papuan refugees

Bali bomb convict freed

Please also see article written by Mirko Bagaric Bali Nine - a mass execution of Australians?

Mirko Bagaric is a professor of law at Deakin Law School, Australia and acts for five of the Bali nine.

For further information

Kate Gibbons


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  1. Clarification — Sam