JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia has postponed the transfer of six convicted drug smugglers, including five foreigners, to a prison island for execution due to technical problems and to allow the two Australians among them to spend more time with their families, an official said Tuesday.
They are among eight convicts who are facing imminent execution despite international appeals for clemency. Among them are Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the ringleaders of a group of nine Australians arrested in 2005 for attempting to smuggle 8.3 kilograms (18.3 pounds) of heroin to Australia from the Indonesian resort island of Bali.
Authorities had said Monday that the eight would be moved this week to Nusa Kambangan prison off the main island of Java.
Two convicts are already being held on the island while six others would be moved from Bali, East Java, Yogyakarta, Banten and Sumatran province of Palembang.
But Attorney General's Office spokesman Tony Spontana said Tuesday that executors surveying the island found it was not ready to handle the executions. He said the inmates would be transferred after the location is ready, but did not give a time frame.
Spontana said that "the execution plan is still on schedule" since the inmates' clemency appeals have been rejected. "The change is the plan of transfer, which was to have been carried out this week," he said, adding that prison officials have suggested the transfers take place three days before the executions.
The postponement was also in response to requests from Australia's government to allow Chan, 31, and Sukumaran, 33, to spend more time with their families, Spontana said. The two are being held in a prison in Bali.
The other convicts to be executed are five men from France, Brazil, Ghana, Nigeria and Indonesia, and a woman from the Philippines.
Spontana said Rodrigo Gularte, Brazilian prisoner who is already in Nusa Kambangan, needs medical examination due to mental illness.
"Due to lack of facilities, the Attorney General is considering permission for being examined outside Nusa Kambangan," he said.
Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has rejected appeals by Australia's government for clemency for Chan and Sukumaran, and has vowed not to grant mercy to any other drug offenders because Indonesia is suffering a "drug emergency."
Australia has abolished capital punishment and opposes executions of any Australian overseas.
The seven other members of the group — dubbed the "Bali Nine" by Australian media — received prison sentences from 20 years to life.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Wednesday he was continuing to make personal representations to Widodo to spare the Australians' lives.
"This is an encouraging sign, but that's all it is," Abbott told reporters, referring to the prisoner transfer postponement. "It certainly isn't an indication that there is now a serious prospect of clemency."
Abbott made his strongest indication yet that Indonesia would face diplomatic consequences if it rejected Australia's appeals for clemency.
"We will be making our displeasure known. We will be letting Indonesia know in absolutely unambiguous terms that we feel grievously let down," he said.
Abbott declined to say whether Australia was considering trade sanctions or recalling its ambassador.
"I am sick in my stomach at the thought of what might happen to these two unfortunate young Australians in a very short space of time if the Indonesian government does not treat our representations on their behalf with the same respect that it expects its representations on behalf of its citizens on death row to be treated," Abbott said.
Six former Australian prime ministers — Malcolm Fraser, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating, John Howard, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard — on Monday added their voices to calls to spare the Australians.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Lestari Marsudi said she understands the position of Australia government to give representation on their behalf, but noted that the death penalty is part of Indonesian law.
"The decision to impose the death penalty by the Indonesian court is not directed to a particular country or a national of certain country." she said. "It should be underlined that the issue is purely law enforcement, a law enforcement against serious crime, law enforcement by a sovereign country, Indonesia."
Indonesia has 133 people on death row, including 57 for drug crimes and two terrorists.
Associated Press writers Niniek Karmini in Jakarta and Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.