Australian official wants Indonesia to show mercy

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SHAFAQNA – Australian senator Nick Xenophon has traveled to Jakarta to appeal to Indonesia’s largest Islamic body to support a reprieve for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, two of the Bali Nine who have been sentenced to death for drug smuggling.

Xenophon, the independent senator for South Australia, met with leaders from Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) in the Indonesian capital on Tuesday, accompanied by Abdurrahman Kafrawi Hamzah, a sheikh from the Adelaide City Mosque.

Describing Islam as a “religion of mercy”, the sheikh, who was reportedly acting as a translator for Xenophon, urged the NU Islamic leaders to forgive the Australian nationals on death row.

“We would like to knock on the hearts of NU as the biggest organisation for Muslims in Indonesia, and also other religious communities here, including the Indonesian government, [to show that] Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran have shown a strong desire to repent,” he said, “Islam is a merciful religion, so it is very appropriate for the two Australians to get mercy.”

An influential Islamic organisation with branches across the country, the NU has voiced strong support for executing drug felons, including the Bali Nine pair.

A week after they were transferred to the island prison off Java where they are scheduled to be executed, senator Xenophon and the sheikh appealed to the NU’s executive council to support a reprieve for the two Australian men.

“We are aware that the death penalty is the right of the Indonesian government. Therefore, we do not ask that it be cancelled but plead that it be delayed, so that the future can also be a lesson for the people of Australia, that drugs carry a very grave danger,” said Hamzah, as reported in Kompas.

Xenophon was visiting the Islamic body on behalf of all Australian Muslims, said the NU website.

During the meeting with the Indonesian religious leaders the sheikh also expressed concern that relations between Indonesia and Australia would be embittered if the executions go ahead.

But the conservative Islamic body appeared unmoved by the pleas from their Australian visitors.

“It needs to be known that there are more drug dealers from Australia in Indonesia these days. This is an extraordinary crime. If the death sentence is not carried out, the nation’s pride will be looked down upon,” said NU executive board member Slamet Effendy, as posted on the NU website.

“Muslims over there [in Australia] don’t need to worry,” said Effendy, “NU will help if there is a problem.”

Effendy also urged Australian Muslims not to stand in support of drug dealers.

While in the past NU leaders have rallied to save political prisoners on death row in Egypt, they said they are firm in their stance that drug traffickers should be executed.

Last Friday it was announced the planned executions of up to 10 death row inmates, including the Bali Nine duo, have been temporarily postponed while legal appeals are finalized.

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