By Ronli Sifris
In recent weeks there has been a renewal of public interest in the Bali Nine, largely stemming from the rejection by Indonesian President Joko Widodo of pleas for clemency to save the lives of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.
It is well known that Chan and Sukumaran have been on death row for close to a decade for their role in the plan to transport more than eight kilograms of heroin from Indonesia into Australia. What is less known is the role played by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) in putting them there.
On April 8, 2005, Paul Hunniford, the AFP senior liaison officer in Bali, sent a letter to the Indonesian National Police (INP) in Denpasar. The letter stated “[the] AFP in Australia have received information that a group of persons are allegedly importing a narcotic substance (believed to be heroin) from Bali to Australia using 8 individual people carrying body packs strapped to their legs and back.”
The letter specified the names of the suspects and the dates on which the AFP believed they would be entering and leaving Indonesia.
The AFP requested the INP’s assistance in conducting the investigation and specifically stated that “should they suspect that Chan and/or the couriers are in possession of drug[s] at the time of their departure [and] that they take what action they deem appropriate”.
On April 12, 2005, Hunniford sent a second letter to the INP containing the names of the heroin couriers and details of the operation. Pursuant to the information provided to them by the AFP, on April 17 the INP arrested nine Australians who became known as “the Bali Nine”. Ultimately, seven of the Bali Nine received jail terms. Chan and Sukumaran (described as the “godfather” and “enforcer” respectively) were sentenced to death.
AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty cited international co-operation in the war on drugs as a justification for the provision of information by the AFP to the INP which led to the arrests of these Australian citizens.
He stated: “When we are dealing with the commission of crimes across international borders, where we have no operations jurisdiction, we have no choice but to work co-operatively with overseas police in an effort to corroborate information, collect evidence and therefore have the biggest possible impact in disrupting the activity of international drug syndicates.”
He further stated that “it is widely recognised that collaborative law enforcement efforts to stop drugs like heroin reaching Australian shores has led to considerable benefits”.
Essentially, the AFP provided the INP with information that it knew could, and which in fact did, lead to Australian citizens facing the death penalty. It did this despite the fact it could have simply arrested the traffickers on arrival in Australia, thereby ensuring a trial conducted in Australian courts in accordance with Australian law (which does not provide for the death penalty). Further, if the AFP viewed co-operation with the INP as being particularly important in the larger context of the “war on drugs” (or the “war on terror”), it could have required an assurance that the death penalty was off the table in exchange for information that it provided, as often occurs in extradition cases.
The Australian government has been trumpeting its efforts to save the pair, claiming that it is making diplomatic “representations at the highest levels”. But this is far too little, far too late. The AFP provided the information that led to the arrest, prosecution, guilty verdicts and death sentences of two Australian citizens. If these men are executed, the AFP will have their blood on its hands.
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