Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifudin, right, shakes hands with Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, the grand mufti of Australia, in Jakarta on Wednesday. (AFP Photo/Adek Berry)

Oz Mufti Asks Jokowi to Have Mercy on 'Bali Nine' Convicts

MARCH 11, 2015

Jakarta. With an appeal to the spirit of "mercy and forgiveness" that "lies at the heart of Islam for those who repent and have reformed their ways," Australia's top Muslim leader on Wednesday called on President Joko Widodo to spare the lives of two Australian drug convicts on death row.

"On behalf of the Islamic community of Australia, we plead, with respect and humility, for mercy for the lives of two young Australian men," Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, the grand mufti of Australia, said in a statement sent to media on Wednesday.

The grand mufti led a delegation of Islamic clerics, including two Australia-based sheikhs with an Indonesian background, that met with Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin in Jakarta on Wednesday.

"I emphasize we are here on behalf of the Islamic community of Australia, a nongovernment initiative independent of the Australian government," Abu Mohamed said in the statement.

Indonesia's ties with its southern neighbor are under increasing pressure over the pending execution of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who were sentenced to death in 2006 after they were caught trying to smuggle heroin through Bali.

The Australian government has called on Joko to grant the men clemency, but to no avail.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's recent reference to his nation's generosity in helping Indonesia recover from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and a subsequent threat by a top Indonesian minister to unleash a "human tsunami" of asylum seekers have further escalated the diplomatic conflict.

Indonesia has long been used as a stepping stone by asylum seekers trying to reach Australia from countries like Afghanistan.

"We as Islamic leaders, respect the position of the Indonesian government in its firm pursuit of the drug scourge in Indonesia. We offer no criticism of the justice system in recent cases," the mufti's statement said.

"However, we note that mercy and forgiveness lies at the heart of Islam for those who repent and have reformed their ways. We urge that the heritage of mercy in our religion is fully and deeply considered in the application of state law."

The two Australians are said to have turned their lives around during their lengthy incarceration, but Joko and his administration maintain that the men cannot be granted clemency because Indonesia is facing a drug emergency.

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