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Australia offers prisoner swap for Bali Nine convicts


AUSTRALIA’S foreign minister has offered a prisoner swap in a last-ditch attempt to save two Australian men on death row in Indonesia.

Julie Bishop said on Thursday she was waiting to hear back about the offer to repatriate three Indonesian convicts.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were moved on Wednesday to a prison island where they are due to be executed.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he had requested another call to negotiate with Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

Ms Bishop confirmed that a prisoner swap was among the options being explored in a joint press conference with Mr Abbott on Thursday morning.

“What we are seeking to do is have an opportunity to talk about options that might be available in the area of prisoner transfer or prisoner swap,” she said.

The offer was made to Ms Bishop’s Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi, who “undertook to provide that information to the president”, Ms Bishop said.

The Australian government was exploring “every avenue that might be available to save the lives of these two men”, she added.

Mr Abbott said that he was seeking another telephone call with Mr Widodo to attempt to persuade the Indonesian president to show the men mercy.

“I’ve put in a request. I can’t guarantee that the request will be met, but I’ve certainly put in a request,” said Mr Abbott.

“We respect Indonesia, we honour the friendship that we have with Indonesia, but we stand up for our values and we stand up for our citizens and these are Australian citizens in extremis.”

Mr Abbott and Ms Bishop were joined on Thursday morning by MPs and members of the public for a candlelit vigil for the men outside the parliament building in Canberra.

Chan and Sukumaran were convicted in 2005 after being caught attempting to smuggle heroin from Bali to Australia.

Indonesia has some of the toughest drug laws in the world and ended a four-year moratorium on executions in 2013.

President Joko Widodo has said the drugs trade destroys lives in Indonesia and adopted a hard line on convicted dealers.

Chan and Sukumaran left Kerobokan jail in Bali early on Wednesday morning and were flown to Nusakambangan, the high-security prison island where Indonesia conducts executions.

The date of their execution has not been announced but was expected to be this week. Al-Jazeera’s Indonesia correspondent Step Vaessen said on Wednesday Mr Widodo told her the execution would not happen this week.

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