TIME indonesia

Bali Nine Arrive at Indonesian Execution Island as Jokowi Spurns Clemency Pleas

Australian death row prisoners Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are seen in a holding cell waiting to attend a review hearing in the District Court of Denpasar in Bali
Antara Photo Agency/Reuters Australian death-row prisoners Andrew Chan, center, and Myuran Sukumaran, left, are seen in a holding cell waiting to attend a review hearing in the District Court of Denpasar, on the Indonesian island of Bali, on Oct. 8, 2010

Despite taking a hard-line stance with foreigners on death row in Indonesia, President Joko Widodo has vowed to save the lives of his compatriots facing execution abroad

In the darkness of early morning hours Wednesday, Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were woken by the Kerobokan prison guards in Bali. It took them 10 minutes to wash and dress for the transfer to Nusakambangan, the prison island in Central Java, where death-row prisoners are set to face the firing squads.

Chan and Sukumaran, sentenced to death in 2006 for drug trafficking, are among a group of 10 prisoners slated to be executed in Indonesia. Despite numerous and repeated pleas from across the globe to spare them — some of whom, like the two Australians, say they have reformed behind bars — Indonesian President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, stands firm on his decision not to pardon drug convicts on death row.

On Thursday, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop offered to swap three Indonesian prisoners held in Australia in a last-ditch attempt to save her compatriots. Although no official response has so far been received, Jokowi told al-Jazeera that the foreigners’ executions would at least not take place this week.

Many, including local rights activists, have criticized Jokowi’s blanket rejection of clemency and called on the 53-year-old carpenter’s son to consider each case on its own merits. Foreign leaders from Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as well as musicians from Black Sabbath and Napalm Death (Jokowi is a big heavy-metal fan), have asked him to show mercy.

Jokowi announced in December that he wouldn’t give clemency to 64 prisoners on death row for drug-related crimes because Indonesia is in a state of “drug emergency.” He said 4.5 million people need rehabilitation and 18,000 people die every year because of illegal-drug use — a claim that, research analyst Claudia Stoicescu of Harm Reduction International points out, is based on “questionable statistics.”

Todung Mulya Lubis, lawyer for Chan and Sukumaran, questions the government’s decision to proceed with transferring the pair, known as the Bali Nine duo, to Nusakambangan while they are still waiting for the legal appeal process. “We still have hope, but we realize it’s only a miracle that can fulfill it,” Todung tells TIME. “They are now in Nusakambangan, and that means it’s just a matter of time [before the executions], likely to be days.”

Other drug convicts awaiting judicial reviews include a Filipina mother of two and a French citizen. Lawyers said Brazilian citizen Rodrigo Gularte should be exempted from the death penalty because he suffers from severe mental illness, but Indonesia’s Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo rejected this plea.

There are few public figures who openly criticize the death penalty in Indonesia, including Jakarta Governor Basuki T. Purnama, who was Jokowi’s deputy. Overall, however, Jokowi enjoys considerable public support for being “tough” on drug traffickers. On Dec. 24, weeks before six drug convicts were executed in January, he visited the headquarters of Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, the two biggest mass Islamic organizations in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, and received official blessing for his death-penalty policy.

Between 1999 and 2014, democratic Indonesia executed a total of 27 people, of whom seven were foreigners. In contrast, five of the six people executed on Jan. 18 were foreign citizens, and nine of the 10 set to be put to death this month are non-Indonesians. All of those executed or slated to be executed so far this year are drug convicts, while only seven of the 27 people executed in 1999 to 2004 were drug convicts. “With the focus on narcotics crimes, foreigners are likely to be executed,” says Dave McRae, senior research fellow at the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute.

Under the presidency of Jokowi’s predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia didn’t carry out any executions from 2009 to 2012, or in 2014. As Yudhoyono pushed a policy to save Indonesian citizens on death row abroad, he gave clemency to drug convicts, including Schapelle Corby of Australia, a decision that stirred a firestorm of public hostility against foreign drug traffickers.

The Jokowi administration has announced 20 executions scheduled for this year — that doubles the existing record number in the post-Suharto-dictatorship Indonesia: in 2008, 10 prisoners were put to death, including the Bali bombers. “It is ironic,” Todung says, “that so many executions happen in democratic Indonesia.”

Notably, Jokowi’s hard-line stance jars with his repeated pledges to save the lives of Indonesians on death row abroad. On Feb. 27, Ajeng Yulia, a 21-year-old Indonesian, was sentenced to death in Malaysia for drug trafficking. Her case adds to the long list of Indonesian citizens facing execution outside their homeland — according to the Foreign Ministry’s count on Feb. 24, a total of 229 Indonesians have been sentenced to death overseas, including 131 for drugs cases. Jokowi, however, doesn’t appear to register the contradiction between vowing to save the lives of Indonesian citizens abroad while dismissing pleas from foreign governments on behalf of their citizens.

“We don’t have moral strength when we try to defend our migrant workers who are sentenced to death,” Todung says.

Instead, Indonesia has stepped up its nationalistic rhetoric. Jokowi shrugged off diplomatic repercussions from countries like Brazil, whose President refused to receive the Indonesian envoy’s credentials. “Don’t try to interfere,” Jokowi said Monday. “This is our legal sovereignty.” Armed-forces chief General Moeldoko dispatched four fighter jets to escort Chan and Sukumaran’s chartered plane en route to Nusakambangan. Says McRae: “This has become a political theater that Indonesian can stare down political pressure.”

TIME Australia

Part of Australia Might Change Time Zones to Avoid TV Spoilers

It's good for live-tweeting

The Australian government is considering changing South Australia’s time zone to align with the clocks of either Western Australia or the country’s eastern states.

“South Australia’s half-hour time difference to the eastern states and 90-minute difference to Western Australia can cause confusion across the spectrum of our daily lives—from sporting fixtures to public-service administration and business transactions,” South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill said in comments reported by the Wall Street Journal.

But there’s another reason the government thinks the change might be a good move: avoiding TV spoilers. “Most of us have a story about spoilers—like hearing the winner of MasterChef from an interstate friend just as the finale is getting interesting on our local TV station,” reads a government website calling for citizen input. “It puts us adrift of most other Australians.”

The region’s television industry is already on board. South Australia’s networks have turned in a joint statement in support of aligning with the eastern states, highlighting “the benefits of up to the minute national news and current affairs, and live social media interaction with popular programs,” according to Investment and Trade Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith.

Yes, the future of Australian time zones could just come down to live-tweeting.

[WSJ]

TIME Australia

Australia Secretly Culled Almost 700 Koalas, Minister Reveals

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John White Photos—Getty Images/Flickr Open

The region is facing problems such as the overpopulation and starvation of koalas

Authorities in southern Australia secretly killed hundreds of koalas in an effort to control their population, a state minister revealed on Wednesday.

A total of 686 of the furry marsupials from Cape Otway in the state of Victoria were sedated and euthanized by wildlife officials in 2013 and 2014, Australian news channel ABC reported.

“It is clear it’s an overpopulation issue and it is clear that we have had koalas suffer in that Cape Otway area because of ill health and starvation,” said Lisa Neville, the state’s environment minister.

Neville stressed a desire to be “transparent” with the Australian people in the future and said a koala-management program would be put in place for the iconic native animals, many of whom also die naturally because of lack of food.

[ABC]

Read next: Stop and Look at This Koala Trying to Steal a Land Rover

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Australia

Australian DJs Whose Prank Call Led to Nurse’s Death Broke the Law, Says Court

People gather in the foyer of the building that houses the 2Day FM radio station in Sydney December 6, 2012.
Daniel Munoz—Reuters People gather in the foyer of the building that houses the 2Day FM radio station in Sydney December 6, 2012.

2Day FM could potentially have its broadcast license suspended

The High Court of Australia has ruled that two Sydney radio presenters broke the law when they phoned a London hospital posing as the Queen and Prince Charles in a prank that eventually led a nurse to take her own life.

In 2012, DJs Michael Christian and Mel Greig from 2Day FM phoned the hospital that was treating the Duchess of Cambridge for morning sickness to try to obtain details of her condition, reports ABC.

Nurse Jacintha Saldhana answered the call and following a media storm later killed herself.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) had originally ruled the station had breached New South Wales surveillance and broadcast law as they did not seek permission from hospital staff before the call.

But 2Day FM successfully appealed, saying the media watchdog had no power to determine whether they had committed a criminal offense.

On Wednesday, the High Court overturned the appeal, ruling the ACMA did in fact have the power to judge criminal actions of broadcasters.

The radio station faces serious penalties and could potentially have its broadcast license suspended.

[ABC]

TIME Australia

Ex-Principal at Prestigious Australian School ‘Sorry’ for Alleged Sex Abuse 

Former students at Knox Grammar include Hollywood star Hugh Jackman and ex-Australian PM Gough Whitlam

The former, longtime principal of one of Australia’s most elite private schools has expressed regret for the alleged sexual abuse that occurred during his tenure.

Ian Paterson apologized Tuesday during a Royal Commission hearing that is investigating institutional responses to sex abuse at Knox Grammar in Sydney, reports the Agence France-Presse.

The ongoing abuse allegedly occurred between the 1970s and 2012, and Paterson served as principal for three decades up until 1998. One former student describes Knox Grammar during these years as having harbored “a large pedophile cohort.”

“I should have known and I should have stopped the events that led to the abuse and its tragic consequences for these boys in my care and their families,” Paterson said.

“My abject failure to provide for you a safe and secure place at Knox strikes at the very heart of a responsibility of a headmaster.”

Although Paterson has not been charged with abuse personally, the commission did hear evidence that in 1989 he inappropriately touched a female student during rehearsals for a stage show with another school.

Paterson is due to give evidence to the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse about how he managed the teachers accused of abusing students. The body was formed in April 2013 to probe accusations of sexual misconduct in state institutions including schools, orphanages and places of worship, and was extended in September 2014 to deal with the thousands of victims who have come forward.

TIME Cricket

Australia Cricketers to Test New Helmet Design Following Phillip Hughes’ Death

Cricket bats line the funeral procession route for Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes outside a primary school in his home town of Macksville
Jason Reed—Reuters Cricket bats line the funeral procession route for Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes outside a primary school in his home town of Macksville, Dec. 3, 2014

Innovative design intended to better protect batsmen

Australian cricket batsmen will over coming weeks test a new helmet design that features a protective attachment to guard the backs of players’ necks, announced Cricket Australia representative Pat Howard on Wednesday.

Upgrading existing helmet designs had become a priority following the tragic death of Australian professional cricketer Phillip Hughes during a match in November. The 25-year-old collapsed on the field after getting struck on the side of the neck by a bouncing ball, and died two days later in a Sydney hospital. His death was attributed to a brain hemorrhage, AFP reports.

British company Masuri is producing the new clip-on helmet attachments, which are constructed from hard plastic and foam. Howard called the new design “quite innovative” and said players “are very receptive to trying it” following Hughes’ passing.

“It’s got impact protection and comes down the side of the head,” said Howard. “Players will be given an opportunity to try it out in a game outside an international, but work our way up.”

Cricket Australia says it will work with the International Cricket Council to push the new helmet design into worldwide use should trials prove successful.

TIME Australia

Australian Leader Outlines Tough New Anti-Terrorism Measures

Prime Minister Tony Abbott Announces Changes In National Security Speech
Stefan Postles—Getty Images Prime Minister Tony Abbott during his speech on National Security at the Australian Federal Police headquarters on February 23, 2015 in Canberra, Australia.

Abbott decried the spread of Islamic extremism in Syria and Iraq as a “new dark age”

Australians who hold dual nationality and flout antiterrorism laws will have their citizenship suspended or revoked, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced Monday during an address on national security.

Even those born in Australia could have citizenship privileges taken away if they are involved in terrorism, reports the BBC.

“These [measures] could include restricting the ability to leave or return to Australia, and access to consular services overseas, as well as access to welfare payments,” Abbott said at the federal police headquarters in the capital, Canberra.

The 57-year-old Premier stressed that the new legislation would also target preachers who incite religious or racial hatred.

“By any measure, the threat to Australia is worsening,” he added, calling the spread of Islamic extremism over Syria and Iraq a “new dark age.”

Abbott said that many of his compatriots were becoming radicalized and lured into the “death cult” of terrorist groups. About 90 Australian nationals are believed to have traveled abroad to fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

During his speech, Abbott also announced the appointment of a new counterterrorism chief and seven new financial analysts to crack down on terrorist financing.

The move comes in the wake of the Sydney siege, during which a lone gunman, Man Haron Monis, held 18 people hostage at a café in the city center. Three people including Monis, who had pledged fealty to ISIS, died at the scene.

TIME Australia

Cyclone Marcia Batters the Coast of Queensland

The storm ripped apart roofs and uprooted trees and power lines

Tropical Cyclone Marcia made landfall in Queensland, Australia, on Friday morning, battering coastal communities before heading south.

The cyclone moved across the coast as a Category 5 storm with wind speeds of up to 296 km/h. On Friday morning it tore through the towns of Yeppoon and Rockhampton, ripping apart roofs and uprooting trees and power lines, reports the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Marcia has now been downgraded to a Category 3 storm with sustained winds of 150 km/h and is reported to be weakening as it moves south.

Residents are being urged to remain indoors and avoid using roads.

The cyclone brought with it higher-than-normal tides and some areas are liable to tidal and flash floods.

Meanwhile, in the country’s Northern Territory, Cyclone Lam made landfall as a Category 4 system and has now been downgraded to a Category 2.

[ABC]

TIME Australia

Former Gitmo Inmate ‘Relieved’ After Terrorism Conviction Quashed

Former Australian Guantanamo Bay inmate David Hicks, right, in Sydney on February 19, 2015
Saeed Khan—AFP/Getty Images Former Australian Guantanamo Bay inmate David Hicks in Sydney on February 19, 2015

U.S. court says Australian David Hicks did not commit a war crime

Australian David Hicks announced relief after a U.S. court overturned his terrorism conviction Wednesday.

The court declared that the former Guantanamo Bay inmate did not commit a war crime, therefore his conviction was not eligible to be heard in a military court, reports the BBC.

“It’s a relief because it’s over,” Hicks said in a Sydney news conference.

Hicks, 39, pleaded guilty in 2007 to charges of providing material support to terrorism. In 2000, Hicks trained with Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan and participated in an attack against Indian forces. In 2001, the Northern Alliance captured Hicks in Afghanistan, where he met Osama bin Laden and enrolled in Al-Qaeda training camps, the BBC reported.

In a rare move, the U.S. Court of Military Commission Review overturned his conviction in a unanimous ruling. Under new rules, providing material support for terrorism no longer qualifies as a war crime for events prior to 2006.

Hicks was sentenced to seven years in Guantanamo Bay, but after pleading guilty, he was allowed to return to Australia after nine months. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said, “Let’s not forget whatever the legalities… he was up to no good on his own admission.”

[BBC]

TIME World

Chainsaw-Injured, Gin-Swilling Australian Loses DUI Appeal

Timothy Withrow drank gin to overcome pain of wound, but was stopped for driving under the influence

An Australian man who drove himself to a hospital while drunk after sustaining a chainsaw wound has lost a court appeal in the case.

Timothy Withrow cut his hand with a chainsaw last February at his home in Port Wilunga. He sewed the wound closed himself, poured gin on it and then drank some of the gin to numb the pain. When he tried to drive himself to the hospital, he was pulled over for not stopping at a stop sign. His blood alcohol content was triple the legal maximum.

Withrow pled guilty to his traffic crimes but was trying to get the crimes reclassified as “trifling” due to the unusual circumstances, so that they would carry a lighter punishment. However, a judge determined that posed a clear danger to himself and others while on the road, even if his tolerance for pain was admirable.

“I admire [his] courage and his tolerance to pain,” said Justice Kevin Nicholson, “but I do not admire his judgment.”

[BBC]

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