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'Don't bury us before we're dead'
Mark Forbes - September 7, 2006

A DISTRAUGHT Scott Rush has pleaded for Australia not to "bury us before we are dead" and do everything possible to reverse the shock death sentences imposed on him and other members of the Bali nine.

Speaking from inside Bali's Kerobokan jail, Rush said the convicted Australians were devastated after learning that Indonesia's Supreme Court had rejected appeals by four of them for lighter prison sentences and instead ordered their execution.

The death sentences for Rush, 20, Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, 23, Si Yi Chen, 21, and 19-year-old Matthew Norman were revealed yesterday in The Age and confirmed later by Indonesian court authorities.

It means that six of the Bali nine heroin smugglers now face death by firing squad, after the court also confirmed the death penalty for the ringleaders of the scheme, Andrew Chan, 22, and Myuran Sukumaran, 25.

However, two others, Martin Stephens and Michael Czugaj, have been spared after their appeals were heard by a different judge, who ordered that they serve life terms.

Renae Lawrence, the only female member of the group, is serving a 20-year term that was not subject to appeal.

Robert Khuana, the lawyer for Rush, signalled he would seek an extraordinary review of the new death sentences, saying the "blind" judges had not discriminated between the couriers and organisers of the plan to import eight kilograms of heroin into Australia.

Failing that, Mr Khuana said Rush would appeal to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for a pardon.

The verdicts sparing Stephens and Czugaj were confirmed yesterday after the Supreme Court, responding to the publication of the other verdicts, held a crisis meeting to finalise the remaining Bali nine appeals.

After a day of confusion over the verdicts — with conflicting media reports and Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer saying he could not clarify the outcome — senior Supreme Court judge Iskandar Kamil finally emerged from the crisis meeting to confirm the four new death sentences.

Judge Kamil said he lacked the heart to hand down death sentences, but the seriousness of drug trafficking required tough penalties. Executions were part of Indonesian law and the sentence was applied in accordance with the law, he said.

"Drug problems are a very dangerous crime against the Indonesian community, and not just for Indonesia but also for other countries and communities," Judge Kamil said.

"This is a serious case. The amount (of heroin) is quite large. Heavy crimes must be paid with similar punishment."

However, Muhammad Taufik, the judge who presided over the appeals of Stephens and Czugaj, said he had ordered life imprisonment as the hearing had examined their roles in the smuggling and "we believe a life sentence is enough for their role as couriers with no part in organising it".

"We do not see any reason for death penalties in these cases because we see they only followed orders and received payment. They were not the brains or the drug bosses," he said.

One of the Bali prosecutors leading the cases against the nine, Made Sudarmawan, said he was "shocked, a bit shocked" by the verdicts, "but it is out of our hands".

In submissions to the appeal, prosecutors had requested only that their 20-year terms be boosted to life imprisonment.

Mohammad Rifan, lawyer for Nyugen, Chen, Norman, Chan and Sukumaran, visited his clients in Kerobokan yesterday, but declined to make any comment on their plans until he was officially informed of the verdicts.

Mr Khuana said he would immediately discuss lodging an extraordinary appeal with Rush and his parents.

Inside Kerobokan, Rush said all of the nine were shocked by the news. "This is making my head spin. I am sitting on death, am I?" he asked The Age.

"At first I didn't want to appeal because of this sort of thing. I was scared and me and my parents were stressed.

"But everyone said no Australians would be put to death, and now I am on death row.

"Life and death, there is a big difference."

All possible steps should be taken to help the Australians avoid the firing squads, Rush said.

"If there is anything people can do to prevent this, please make it happen because I need a second chance at life."

Rush said he had been "cleaning myself up" and trying to study, but "now they won't give us a second chance … don't bury us before we are dead."

Australian barrister Colin McDonald, QC, is expected to fly to Jakarta within days to explore a possible appeal against the death sentence imposed on Rush.

Mr McDonald said last night that he was making the trip "as a matter of urgency" after discussions yesterday with Bob Meyers, a Queensland lawyer acting for Rush's parents Christine and Lee.

With LINDSAY MURDOCH

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