Australian police defend alerting Indonesia to 'Bali Nine'
SYDNEY, Australia – Australian police Monday, May 4, defended alerting Indonesia to a Bali drug-smuggling ring despite knowing offenders could face the death penalty, but said they regretted that two of them were executed.
Nine Australians were arrested in the resort island of Bali in 2005 over their involvement with a syndicate bringing drugs to Sydney, with Andrew Chan, 31, and Myuran Sukumaran, 34, killed by a firing squad last week despite pleas for mercy from Canberra.
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin said he regretted that Indonesia executed the men, but did not believe he owed Chan and Sukumaran's families an apology.
"We can't apologize for the role that we have to try to stop illicit drugs from coming into this community," he said.
Colvin said that faced with an identical set of circumstances but using newer guidelines which were updated in 2009, police investigators "may well not choose to go down the same path they did in 2005".
The newer guidelines call on police to consider the risk of the death penalty at a much earlier stage in investigations and have, at times, restricted dealings with foreign partners.
But Colvin stressed that to crack down on transnational crime, Australian police had to work with other countries, including those with the death penalty.
He denied reports that the Australian investigation was triggered by a tip-off from the father of one of the Bali Nine, saying police were already looking into the syndicate but did not have enough evidence to make any arrests prior to their departure for Indonesia.
Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Mike Phelan said he agonized over the decision to ask for assistance from Indonesia rather than arrest the drugs mules on their return to Australia, but said he was driven by a desire to stop the syndicate.
"To let them come back through to Australia, we may have grabbed a couple of mules, but we would not have been able to have any evidence in relation to the wider syndicate," he said.
Phelan said his decision was made in the knowledge that Australians could be exposed to the death penalty.
"Yes, I knew full well by handing over the information and requesting surveillance, if they found them in possession of drugs they'd take action and expose them to the death penalty," he said.
"And every time I look back, I still think it's a difficult decision, but given what I knew at that particular time and what our officers knew, I would take a lot of convincing to make a different decision."
Australian police were able to arrest and convict 6 other people in Sydney and Brisbane on the information received from the Indonesians. – Rappler.com