• Andrew Chan (right) and Myuran Sukumaran (centre) speak to lawyer Julian McMahon (AAP)
Dateline revisits the story of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran to look at the men they used to be and the men they've become.
Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 21:30

One of the really frustrating and stupid things about this case is that they have become valuable assets for the Indonesian community – they help Indonesians in prison become better people,” their lawyer Julian McMahon tells Dateline.

“The idea of killing two young men who do that day in and day out is just ridiculous.”

He’s been working tirelessly on behalf of the Bali Nine ringleaders to try and get their death penalties reduced, and it’s their rehabilitation that’s become a key focus of the campaign.

Chan is now a pastor and Sukumaran is months from completing a fine arts degree.

In their time behind bars since April 2005, they’ve set up and run a host of rehabilitation programs, teaching inmates valuable skills to help them turn their lives around.

It’s a model that’s been copied at prisons across the country.

“Having been rehabilitated in this quite remarkable way, as pastors, as painters, making this enormous contribution to the Indonesian prison system… they should be given a second chance,” Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop tells Dateline.

“This is what Indonesia asks other countries for their nationals. It’s what Australia is asking Indonesia for our citizens.”

Bishop became emotional when speaking to parliament on the issue last week, and has become one of many high profile campaigners fighting for them to be spared death by firing squad.

“I didn’t think I would be as emotional about it… but I kept thinking about the last meeting I had with Mrs Sukumaran,” she tells Dateline.

“She hugged me so hard I thought I couldn’t breathe and she just sobbed and sobbed. And it just came back to me as I was talking about the impact on the families.”

Watch more of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's interview with Dateline.

“You don’t get to hear people in the prison doing so well and that is what kept us going all these days,” Myuran’s mother Raji Sukumaran told a press conference last week.

“Now at the end of the ten years they want to execute them. How do you take it? It’s not fair.”

But some also believe that they should receive the sentence handed down for their crimes, including new Indonesian President Widodo. He’s made it clear that he intends to take a hard line against drug crime.

“Requests for clemency, as soon as they got to my desk, I said ‘I won’t be handing out any pardons for drug cases',” he proclaimed in a recent speech at an Indonesian university to applause from the audience.

Around 60 people could be executed by the end of the year.

Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan during an Indonesian Independence Day celebration at Kerobokan prison in Bali, Indonesia, Aug 17, 2011. (AP/Firdia Lisnawati, File)

Dateline also revisits its exclusive interviews with Sukumaran and Chan from 2010, when the program gained unprecedented access to them inside Kerobokan Prison.

“I never saw myself as, like a bad person or something like that. As I look back at myself now I see I was stupid back then, but I never thought of myself as a bad person,” Sukumaran told Dateline.

He showed off his artwork, and Chan spoke about becoming a pastor.

“It made me look at maybe one day I won't get up… so it's put me on a different angle to look at things differently,” Chan said in 2010. “Probably to cherish life a lot more than what I did.”

“Indonesian law provides that a rehabilitated prisoner should be resentenced after 10 years of being on death row,” says lawyer Julian McMahon.

“Indonesian law has got a lot of philosophy and jurisprudence concerning rehabilitation. I’m just hoping for those policies and laws to be implemented for my clients.”

Watch the full story at the top of the page.


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  • Editor: Simon Phegan


JULIAN MCMAHON, LAWYER:  A few days before you actually die, a prisoner is grabbed from wherever they are, taken to the area where they're going to be executed. These days that is usually a prison island to the south of Java. You go to your isolation cell, you're there for about three day, you'll have one or two visits, and then you're taken out usually at night. Strapped to a cross of some kind, blindfolded if you want to be, some cloth pinned to your heart, 12 people line up, three of them have live rounds and then you're just shot.

ANTON ENUS:  In 2005, nine Australians were caught attempting to export heroin from Bali. Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were cast as the ring leaders. Myuran was dubbed the kingpin and Andrew the mastermind.

ANDREW CHAN:  I don't think I was really going anywhere in life and I don't think - yeah, I just don't think I was - I was really heading anywhere. Whatever happens to Schapelle Corby, happened to me.

JULIAN MCMAHON:  They were pretty unimpressive, they were typical young offenders.

ANDREW CHAN:  We had a lawyer then. He said ten years - maximum. I was just thinking, "10 years, could live with that." I thought to myself, "I could live with it."

MYURAN SUKUMARAN:  It was pretty shocking, pretty confused. You don't think that you're going to get caught in a huge scandal like this, it's going to happen.

SBS NEWS REPORTS:  We start with breaking news. Bali Nine member Andrew Chan...

Myuran Sukumaran has lost his bid for presidential clemency...

The Supreme Court has rejected his final appeal...

Sentence to death by firing squad for his role in attempting to traffic heroin from Bali to Australia in 2005.

He has had all legal appeals against his death sentence have failed.

He will be put to death in the next rounds of executions.

JULIAN MCMAHON:  The clock is ticking and it's pretty close to midnight. We're in a bad situation.

RAJI SUKUMARAN, MYURAN’S MOTHER:  You don't get to hear people from the prison doing so well and that is what kept them going all these days. Now, at the end of the 10 year they want to execute them. How do you take it? It's not fair.

ANTON ENUS:  In 2010, reporter Mark Davis met Myuran and Andrew. It was the first time anyone had been given permission to bring a camera into prison to film their story.

MARK DAVIS, DATELINE 2010: You're not looking so good?

MYURAN SUKUMARAN:  I attempted to do a bit of sport today to sweat it out. I never saw myself as a bad person or something like that. As I look back on myself now, I see how stupid back then, but I never thought of myself as a bad person.

MARK DAVIS:  Good morning.

ANDREW CHAN:  Good morning.

MARK DAVIS:  How are you?

ANDREW CHAN: Yeah, all right, I suppose. Just got up. Yeah. All right, I suppose.   Hardly ever spent any time with my mum or dad, or my brothers and sisters, we didn't - we just didn't really get along, I just - I was pretty much like the black sheep of the family to be honest. You know, I have learnt to realise my brother – my own brother is my own best friend. He'd always stick his nose in even though I'd turn around sometimes and say, "None of your business." You know, I know he only wanted to look out for me. I used to think he was a prick, but... (LAUGHS).. But it's true. I used to - I envied him. He knows that because I told him.

MICHAEL CHAN, ANDREW’S BROTHER:  Some people say, "Did you know?" Well personally if I knew he was up to something like that, I'd probably - it would probably be more satisfaction for me to probably strangle him myself to death than to go through this pain and agony with him right now. I abused drugs myself.

ANDREW CHAN:  I was a drug user. You know, I know what it feels like to be, you know, one of them – them junkies walking on the street, I guess.

TIM LINDSEY, ASIAN LAW PROFESSOR:   Australians look at this as the death penalty issue, which it is. In Indonesia's it' been seen as a drugs issue.

JIMLY ASSHIDDIQIE, FORMER CHIEF JUSTICE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT (Translation): Australians have to understand the difficulties Indonesia is facing because of the drug problem. It’s huge. The effects are far worse than those of terrorism.

JULIAN MCMAHON:  Most of the drugs consumed in Indonesia are manufactured in Indonesia. My clients were attempting to export drugs out of Indonesia. The kind of people that my clients represented, even on the worst day, are really peripheral to the essential problems that the Indonesians are facing. But no one is talking about that in Indonesia.

JULIE BISHOP, FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER: There was a change of government, a change of president last year, and President Widodo has made it clear that the drug trade in Indonesia is a national crisis in his - his words. And that he intends to take a very hard line.

JULIAN MCMAHON:  In December, the President said, "I'm going to have 64 people on death row for drug offences. All of them executed."

JOKO WIDODO, PRESIDENT OF INDONESIA (Translation):  Requests for clemency…As soon as they got to my desk I said, “I won’t be handing out any pardons for drugs cases.”

TIM LINDSEY:  Jokowi  is a weak President. He has not got a majority in the legislature. He's struggling to put one together. He's struggling to get his agenda through. As the political pressure on him mounts, it's extraordinarily high right at the moment, there really is a political crisis in Indonesia. For him to be tough is all the more important.

JULIAN MCMAHON:   Right now there's a kind of sudden rush to execute.

SBS NEWS REPORT: They'll be put to death in the next round of executions.

JULIAN MCMAHON:  Indonesia has executed about 30 people in, say, 20 years. It's not a country which executes much at all.

TIM LINDSEY: The former President, there were no executions between 2008 and 2013. Not only have they resumed executions but they're actually saying really they want to embark on a mass killing. There's no other way to put it. 5 people per month. That would be a complete transformation of Indonesia's practice in the past.  It would move it away from what seemed to have been a slow possible path towards abolition to putting in the brackets of the top executors in the world.

MARK DAVIS:  Did you consider that you're in a country with the death penalty?

ANDREW CHAN:  You don't think too much of that. I didn't, anyway. You know, most people think, yeah, you would, but I didn't. More or less for me it was just a quick - quick payday, that's it. And, yeah, I did have a - I did have a role in it. Truth of the matter is, you know, I did commit a crime and, you know, right now I'm obviously paying - I'm obviously paying the price for it.

MARK DAVIS:  There's a huge risk, whether you recognise it or not, you must have felt there was a risk. What was the reward?

MYURAN SUKUMARAN:  I was hoping to buy a car, hoping to start a business. Those are the sort of things that I - I didn't see, like, myself working in a mail room for the next 50 years of my life. I thought, "No, I can't do this." When you see all these people, like nightclubs with nice BMWs and nice Mercedes and, you know, there's always chicks there. There was buying drink drinks for everybody, you think, fuck, how do you do this on a mail room salary?

ANDREW CHAN: It could be worse, could be worse. So I suppose I'm thankful that every day I actually get to wake up. As you know, I'm studying and, you know, a lot of people might say that - they say it's probably no use towards it. Look where you're staying! But I believe if you want to try to build yourself up to something, you have got to start somewhere. You start today and maybe tomorrow won't exist.

MARK DAVIS:  What did you say to your mum? She worked particularly hard all her life, she was proud of you.


MARK DAVIS:  What do you say to someone like that?

MYURAN SUKUMARAN:  I kept saying sorry. I don't know what I can do to make it all better, but...

JULIAN MCMAHON:  In the last two weeks, the number of Constitutional Court judges who sat on the death penalty case in 2007 examining the law concerning this issue have said that our clients should not be executed because of the time that has passed, because of the rehabilitation, because of the justice of the case.

MOHAMMAD LAICA MARZUKI, FORMER CONSTITUTIONAL COURT JUDGE (Translation):  Death sentence is violates the constitution. You know, the highest law in this country is constitution. Because we have to create, we have to bring enlightenment to the world, to humanity. The final decision rejected it. It considered the death penalty to be constitutional. As chief justice, I went along with it.

JIMLY ASSHIDDIQIE: Actually, I'm so sad and I cry about that. I cry about that.

TIM LINDSEY:  Jimly Asshiddiqie played a decisive role in obtaining the death penalty, but he was also responsible for inserting a particular phrase that the Government should grant clemency for prisoners who, after ten years, show reform.

ANTON ENUS:   Today, Jimly is now with Laica in speaking out, and other Judges are joining their ranks.

MOHAMMAD LAICA MARZUKI (Translation):  The death penalty, in my opinion and that of my two colleagues, is no longer in line with developments in the standards of universal humanism.

JIMLY ASSHIDDIQIE: I have a dream. I have a dream. One day our country have to abolish the death penalty.

ANDREW CHAN:  It's made me look at it at, hey, maybe one day I won't be able to get up. One day I won't - one day I possibly won't have the chance get up. So it's put me on a different angle to look at things differently, to look at things differently. Probably to cherish life a lot more than what I did.

MARK DAVIS:  Where are we off to?

ANDREW CHAN:   Going down to the church service.

JULIAN MCMAHON:   It's hard to give a brief answer to how they've helped other prisoners. Andrew's counselled them, pulled them out of drugs, pulled them out of trouble. Help them pull them lives in order. They have basically grown into fine young men. They live each day with the resolve to do something constructive and good with their time because they don't know how much time they have got.

ANDREW CHAN:  Makes me want to become a better person today and not tomorrow. I live every day as it comes. I live as though it's my last. I'll make sure I have lived a good life, that I'm happy with it anyway, really. That's our English service, and generally I run worship with Anwar right there, the guy that's singing right there.

JULIAN MCMAHON:  One of the things that is kind of enjoyable if slightly macabre, that the boys have death row jokes. All prisoners have jokes with their predicament in prison.

MYURAN SUKUMARAN:  Do you want to see some of the designs.

JULIAN MCMAHON:   Myuran was called a kingpin in the media. When he started making T-shirts, I think he invented a label.

MARK DAVIS:  What’s the brand?

MYURAN SUKUMARAN:   Kingpin clothing.

MARK DAVIS:   That's your name.

MYURAN SUKUMARAN:  That's what they call me, the kingpin.

MARK DAVIS:  That's what they called you in the media too.

MYURAN SUKUMARAN:  Yeah. Andrew was the godfather and I was the kingpin.  It was pretty funny because at first they call me the enforcer.  

MARK DAVIS:  You were the tough one.

MYURAN SUKUMARAN:  Yeah, the martial arts expert, I did three months of training and I became a martial arts expert.

ANDREW CHAN:  Here I am living with my parents still, how many Godfathers do you know that still live with their parents.

JULIAN MCMAHON:   You have got to have a sense of humour when you're stuck on maximum security death row year after year, waiting to be executed. You either sink or you swim. One of the really frustrating and stupid things about this case is that they have become valuable assets for the Indonesian community. They help Indonesians in prison become better people. The idea of killing two young men who do that day in and day out is just ridiculous.

BRINTHA SUKUMARAN, MYURAN’S SISTER:   This painting, Myuran wanted to call it the Brady Bunch.

MARK DAVIS:  You're showing something to your family as well, is that part of it?

MYURAN SUKUMARAN:  Yeah, trying to do stuff they can be proud of.

MARK DAVIS:  And are they proud of you?


JULIAN MCMAHON:   So what else are you reading? You have got Dante and Milton, two of the all-time greatest books.

MYURAN SUKUMARAN:  I have got a couple of books on chess strategy. But I don't know how to read those books on chess strategy.

JULIAN MCMAHON:   I'm very fond of both of them. They have both become lovely guys. There is a redemption of character there, they're healthy, they're strong, they're wise beyond their years. They're a pleasure to work for. I don't want you to get, you know, to optimistic, and...

ANDREW CHAN:  It’s like a Grand Final.

JULIAN MCMAHON:   Like a Grand Final.

ANDREW CHAN: Like a Grand Final.

ANTON ENUS:  After losing three death penalty appeals, Andrew and Myuran lodged a judicial review to challenge their death penalty sentence in 2010.

RAJI SUKUMARAN:  In the night when you go to sleep, you know, the last thing in your mind before you fall asleep is when is my son going to come home. And as soon as you wake up in the morning, that's what I have. That's what's in my mind. It's hard for me to sort of go on, on day-to-day, like cooking and shopping and doing housework. It's really hard. I really, sort of, miss him and... I just want him back with the family, just want to see the kids together.

CHINTHU SUKUMARAN:  She worries a lot about us, and, you know, she keeps us close and, yeah, it's been pretty hard on her.

BRINTHA SUKUMARAN:  Yeah, I think sometimes she struggles to let us do things on our own because she always wants to keep us close to her, so. The media was pretty much telling everyone who he was, and they're so loud that whatever we said meant nothing. I feel like people - people have already judged Myuran, and made a judgment about our family.

MICHAEL CHAN:  Emotionally, it's been a big rollercoaster ride, from what did we do wrong as a family? Or what did mum and dad do wrong bringing him up? Where did we detour.

ANDREW CHAN (Translation):  I apologise to the Indonesian people, I also apologise to my family.  If I am pardoned I hope that one day I will be able to have my own family and work as a pastor so I can give guidance to young people. I can still contribute a great deal during the rest of my life.

JULIE BISHOP: They are changed men, the work that they have undertaken in prison, the education programs as pastors, as painters, they have achieved what prison systems around the world aspire to achieve, that's rehabilitating drug offenders. The prison Governors acknowledge that, and have testified on their behalf, testified to their good character.

BAPAK SISWANTO, KEROBOKAN PRISON GOVERNOR (Translation):  Concerning  Myuran’s contribution, I strongly believe, as the prison governor, that it has had a very great influence.  If the death penalty is upheld and he is executed – for me personally, that would be a shame. My spirit says, “Can’t he be pardoned?”  

JULIAN MCMAHON:  That was a very gutsy thing to do. He was fighting his employer, his employer, his employer is the State of Indonesia, the State of Indonesia was cross-examining him and he was saying, "I'm here to tell the truth in full uniform, this is what I say."

JIMLY ASSHIDDIQIE:  We have to be optimistic that there's always a light at the end of the tunnel.

ANTON ENUS:  Convicted drug trafficker Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran can only have their lives saved by a presidential clemency. President Joko Widodo has just ordered that no effort be spared to secure the release of more than 200 Indonesians on death row around the world. But will not be moved on the executions of Andrew and Myuran.

JOKO WIDODO (Translation):  I will not grant clemency in any case.

JIMLY ASSHIDDIQIE: I'm so sad, yeah, I'm so sad because that mean the government is against the constitution. The President is not above the constitution.

JULIAN MCMAHON:   Politicalising executions and the death penalty or using hastened speed to get people executed is a sure sign that something is going badly wrong and that there is another agenda here. No country has more successfully or aggressively been able to save its own citizens from death row. They have saved nearly 200 people in the last 3.5 years and they still got about another 200 on death row scattered around the world.

JULIE BISHOP: Yet, they won't show the same mercy to Australian citizens who are facing death row in Indonesia. I have made this point time and time again, and it's a confusing message for us to have to accept.

JIMLY ASSHIDDIQIE: We have to optimistic that there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.

JULIE BISHOP: I just put myself in the shoes of the families. Their sons, their brothers are facing death by firing squad. I kept thinking about the last meeting I had with Mrs Sukumaran where she hugged me so hard I thought I couldn't breathe and she just sobbed and sobbed. It just came back to me as I was talking about the impact on the families. When I spoke to the families who were in Jakarta by phone this week, they told me how it was virtually impossible to be strong for each other, how it was unbearable to see their sons, their brothers, not knowing if it was their last time. How could anybody, not be moved by their heartbreaking pleas for mercy. Both families have told me they're proud of the men their sons have become.

MICHAEL CHAN:  Coming here today was on the basis of mercy and begging the President to reconsider.

RAJI SUKUMARAN:  For the last 10 years, our families have gone through a lot, and only thing that we are able to live with, to see the boys through so many things, to help other people. And we are very proud of them.

MICHAEL CHAN:  We want people to know what the boys have actually achieved in nine years more than anyone else, you know. I don't want them to be known as, you know, just the people that tried to smuggle drugs and that's it, because that was the story at the beginning, but they have had quite a journey in the last nine years. It's been quite an amazing journey for both of, you know, to have something lingering over your head for the last nine years, and to turn out the way they both have, it's a testament to them both.

MARK DAVIS:  What hope do you have of your final chances?

MYURAN SUKUMARAN:  I hope to get a life sentence. I hope not to be executed.

MARK DAVIS:  What sort of life would it be for you?

MYURAN SUKUMARAN:  It would be a life.

MARK DAVIS:  Better than no life?




Associate Producers:





Story Graphics:

‘The Condemned’ 2010