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Richard Branson calls on Indonesia to spare Bali Nine pair

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RICHARD Branson has written to the president of Indonesia to ask him to spare the lives of two Australian drug smugglers.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who were convicted as ringleaders of the “Bali Nine” drugs ring, are expected to be executed in the coming days.

Mr Branson said on Wednesday he is willing to fly to Indonesia “ASAP” to meet President Joko Widodo.

Mr Widodo has rejected calls to show Chan and Sukumaran clemency.

In his letter to the Indonesian president, Mr Branson, founder of the Virgin group of companies, called the death penalty an “inhumane form of punishment” and said that the drug trade was “remarkably unaffected” in countries that employed it.

The letter went on to suggest granting clemency would be a “humane and righteous act, and a first step towards sensible reform that could become a shining example for the entire Asian region”.

It was co-signed by two of Mr Branson’s colleagues on the Global Commission on Drug Policy, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a former president of Brazil and Ruth Dreifuss, a former president of Switzerland.

Mr Branson used even stronger terms in a post on his Virgin blog, calling the death penalty “barbaric”.

Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop have unsuccessfully petitioned Mr Widodo to commute Chan and Sukumaran’s sentences.

Ms Bishop even offered to repatriate three Indonesian drug convicts in a prisoner swap for the pair, but was rebuffed.

Chan and Sukumaran were arrested at Bali airport in 2005 while attempting to smuggle heroin to Australia. They were sentenced to death in 2006.

Their families have argued that they have since reformed their characters and helped other prisoners to do the same.

The pair arrived on Nusakambangan prison island last week, where they are due to be executed. They have one final appeal hearing scheduled for Thursday morning.

If the execution goes ahead, the two men will face a firing squad.



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