Indonesia's Supreme Court has sentenced four young Australians to death for heroin smuggling, overturning earlier jail terms, in a move likely to strain ties between the two neighbours.
Three were given the death penalty after prosecutors had appealed against a cut in their jail terms, Zarof Ricar, director of criminal justice at the Supreme Court, said yesterday.
A fourth Australian was also given a death sentence after appealing against his life term, he added.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told reporters in Canberra that an appeal for clemency would be filed.
According to the court official, six of the so-called "Bali Nine" gang arrested on the resort island last year while trying to smuggle more than 8.2 kilograms of heroin into Australia now face execution.
The court handed down death sentences to Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, Si Yi Chen and Matthew Norman, the official said. This was also confirmed by court documents see by media.
The three were among five from the group to have their life sentences cut to 20 years in April after an appeal to the Bali High Court.
"The Supreme Court has granted appeals by the prosecutors and retried the cases on its own, resulting in death sentences for the three," Ricar told reporters.
Prosecutors had asked the Supreme Court to reinstate the life sentences but Indonesia's top court has the power to examine cases independently and pass its own verdict.
Ricar later said that Scott Rush had also had his life term changed to a death sentence after losing his appeal.
The Supreme Court upheld the death penalty passed on two of the ringleaders in the case, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. Michael Czugaj had his reduced 20-year jail sentence raised to life, while Martin Stephens had his life term upheld, he said.
Renae Lawrence, the only woman in the group, was not affected by the latest appeals, Ricar said. She had her life term cut to a 20-year sentence in April.
Ricar said those sentenced to death could file for a judicial review or seek clemency from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Executions in Indonesia are carried out by firing squad.
Mohammad Rifan, the group's lawyer, told reporters in Bali after visiting his clients that they were waiting for official notification before deciding what action to take.
The new death sentences are likely to spark anger in Australia, which is a staunch opponent of the death penalty.
The group of eight men and one woman were arrested in Bali in April last year and the stiff verdicts have highlighted Indonesia's zero tolerance for drug offences.
Australian Foreign Minister Downer said an appeal would be made. "We will at the appropriate time support appeals for clemency. I have no idea whether those appeals will be successful or not."
Downer said the judges believed lower courts including appellate judges had been "too forgiving."
"The Indonesian Supreme Court has clearly taken the view that trafficking in heroin is a profoundly grave offence.
"They've decided on their own initiative and without being urged to do so by the prosecution, therefore in an unusual circumstance, to apply the death penalty in these cases."
He said he would raise the sentences with Indonesian Justice Minister Hamid Awaluddin during a visit to Australia in October to sign off on a prisoner exchange agreement between the two.
Separately, a lawyer for Schapelle Corby said no closed circuit TV footage had been obtained from Sydney airport that might clear the Australian beautician, who is making a final appeal in a Bali court over her 20-year sentence for marijuana smuggling.
Corby has said the drugs found in her bodyboard bag at Bali's airport were placed there by someone at an Australian airport.
But her lawyer Erwin Siregar said he had given judges a letter from Australian Justice Minister Chris Ellison, which showed police had cleared her of drug trafficking in Australia.
Source: China Daily