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Grafton man shocked by Bali Nine execution plans

SHOCKED: Grafton man John Hickson has visited members of the Bali Nine in jail. Photo Debrah Novak
SHOCKED: Grafton man John Hickson has visited members of the Bali Nine in jail. Photo Debrah Novak

GRAFTON man John Hickson's weekend went from bad to worse when he heard Indonesian authorities are preparing to this week execute Bali Nine ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

Mr Hickson, who has visited Kerobokan Prison on Bali since 2008 and met both men several times, was shocked by the news.

"The Australian embassy officials have been called into a meeting in Jakarta on Monday," he said. "In the past when they've executed foreigners, they call the embassy officials in to tell them what's happening and three days later, they carry it out."

Mr Hickson said the barbarity of executing two men who have been suffering mental anguish on death row for 10 years is hard to take.

"They've done the crime and they've done enough time," Mr Hickson said.

"They've been through hell for 10 years and now they're going to be executed because a new president (Joko Widodo) won't give them clemency."

Mr Hickson suspects the executions of drug smugglers in Indonesia are being carried out for domestic political consumption.

They are both very nice young men, very sincere and polite. When you meet them they always ask how you are going and how's your family.

Mr Hickson said the work that Mr Chan and Mr Sukumaran are doing with their fellow inmates while in jail is remarkable and should be a blueprint for rehabilitating prisoners.

"When I met them, we didn't talk for long because they were always wanting to get back to what they were doing with prisoners," he said.

"It's such a waste. I'm sure they could be doing this sort of thing with the art and religious work in other prisons.

"They are both very nice young men, very sincere and polite. When you meet them they always ask how you are going and how's your family."

Mr Hickson and friend Graeme Kelly began visiting the prison almost by accident.

"We had gone over to help out the Christian orphanage over there, In the Arms of Love," he said.

"We were going past the prison one day and saw about 200 people outside waiting to go in so we decided to go in and see what we could do to help the prisoners."

The pair spoke to an Australian wearing an Akubra hat. The man was Lee Rush, whose son Scott who was among the Bali Nine members convicted of drug trafficking.

"He told us what to do and cleared it with the right people so we could visit people in the jail," Mr Hickson said.

Since then the men have visited the island two or three times a year working with the orphanage and the prisoners.

They have also visited Renae Lawrence and Martin Stephens who were also jailed as part of the Bali Nine group. They also spoke with fellow Australian Schapelle Corby before her release from the prison last year after being convicted of drug smuggling.

"I think they had some hope when Schapelle was pardoned," Mr Hickson said.

"Now is has become too horrible to think about."

Topics:  bali nine, editors picks, execution, grafton, kerobokan prison



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