Three members of Australia’s Bali Nine, who have served 16 years behind bars, should be forgiven and allowed to walk free one day, prison and justice ministry officials say.
The three, who are jailed in Bali, are serving life sentences for their role in an ill-fated heroin-smuggling plot and unless they can win a reprieve from Indonesia’s president, will never be freed.
As Indonesia’s 17 August Independence Day approaches, when remissions are traditionally announced, the trio’s jail governors and justice officials have sent glowing reports to Jakarta, recommending they be given a chance at life outside prison.
The final decision rests with president Joko Widodo, who, in 2015, ordered that Bali Nine ringleaders 34-year-old Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, 31, be executed by firing squad.
Matthew James Norman, 34, and Si Yi Chen, 36, are held in Bali’s Kerobokan prison while Scott Rush, 35, is in the Bangli Narcotics jail in Bali’s north.
Norman and Rush were the youngest of the nine Australians arrested in April 2005, attempting to smuggle 8.3kg of heroin home from Bali. The group, including four couriers with the drugs strapped to them, was arrested at Bali airport and the rest at a nearby hotel.
Sukumaran and Chan were sentenced to death and the rest, except Renae Lawrence, were handed life sentences. Under Indonesian law, life means life, unless a prisoner can successfully win a reprieve from the president and be given a determinant sentence that would entitle them to yearly sentence cuts and freedom.
Kerobokan jail governor, Fikri Jaya Soebing, told AAP both Norman and Chen were model prisoners and deserved remissions.
He said both were involved in rehabilitation programs that helped fellow prisoners.
“Once we propose it to the government, it means they deserve [a remission],” Fikri said.
“They have never violated the rules inside the jail and they actively manage the rehabilitation programs in jail. They have fulfilled all the requirements. If they don’t deserve to get it, I would not have proposed it.
“Both of them are active in the workshop, Si Yi in silver jewellery meanwhile Matthew is doing clothing. They also train other inmates. They also teach English and both of them are also active in religious activities.”
Si Yi Chen runs a silversmith training rehabilitation program in the jail, called Mule Jewels, which gives hope to prisoners and teaches them skills for when they are released. Norman is involved in screen printing.
The governor at Rush’s prison said he was a changed man and deserved to have his sentence cut.
“He has realised his wrongdoing,” said Agus Pritiatno, adding that Rush had taken part in drug rehabilitation programs.
The prison official said he had told Rush to be patient in regards to the remission application and to continue his good behaviour.
Bali’s Correctional Board has recommended Rush, Chen and Norman have their sentences cut.
For Rush, the board submitted he was just a teenager when arrested, with immature cognition and decision-making ability.
In Norman and Chen’s recommendations, the board said they had already served many years in prison and therefore should be forgiven and allowed to have certainty in regards to their future.
Bali Nine member Martin Stephens, 45, also serving a life sentence, is in a jail in Malang in East Java. Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, who was at the same jail, died of cancer in 2018.
Lawrence was released in 2018 and has returned to Australia.