The one constant, from the moment in 2005 when nine Australians were arrested in Bali attempting to carry some 8.3kg of heroin through Indonesia and into Australia, was that the Australian Federal Police had remained tight-lipped on why they chose the course of action that they did.
Following lengthy investigations into the identities and movements of the group, the AFP chose to tip-off Indonesian authorities where they knew judicial sentencing carries the very real threat of the death penalty, rather than make the arrests themselves on home soil.
Throughout the 10 year ordeal leading up to the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in the early hours of yesterday morning, the AFP has remained steadfast in not commenting on the case – often citing the ongoing legal appeals process as the reason for their silence.
But now the AFP is to be grilled by a Senatorial hearing over their role and motivations in the case, with independent senator Nick Xenophon set to seek answers from the AFP during a Senate Estimates hearing in May.
Speaking to media, Senator Xenophon asserted that it was not a case of throwing accusatory glares the AFP’s way, rather it was about protecting the safety of Australian citizens in the future.
“This is not about recriminations – it is about making sure that this never, ever happens again.”
The AFP became fully involved in the case after being tipped off by barrister Bob Myers, who went to authorities in a bid to prevent family friend Scott Rush from committing a crime, who later expressed his dismay at the subsequent actions of the AFP.
“This is a black day for the AFP, a day they deliberately exposed nine Australians to the death penalty.”
But the AFP’s supporters have asserted that, from a legal standpoint, no false moves were made. Citing the AFP’s fundamental guidelines that states the body places a priority on working with international law enforcement, a review of the AFP’s actions in 2006 found that they had acted lawfully.
In the years since, laws and regulations about Australian authoritative bodies exposing citizens to potential sentences of death overseas have been tightened. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten suggested that in the wake of the executions of Chan and Sukumaran, it might be time to revisit those amendments and tighten them further. Meanwhile Clive Palmer, along with independent MP Cathy McGowan, have introduced a Private Members Bill into the lower house that seeks to further minimise any Australian citizen’s chance of being exposed to the death penalty abroad.
The AFP will provide answers to the Senate’s questioning when the Estimates hearing takes place in the coming weeks.
Photo: Scott Barbour via Getty Images.