Bali Nine members set to have life sentences cut

Four of the Bali Nine drug smugglers are poised to have their life sentences reduced to 20 years, though the decision still has to find approval from a gun-shy central government in Jakarta.

Martin Stephens, Matthew Norman, Si Yi Chen and Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen applied in May for the sentence reduction. The corrections department in Jakarta has confirmed that prison authorities in Bali have found in their favour.

The final decision, though is up to the Minister for Law and Human Rights, Syamsuddin, who is under pressure from anti-drug campaigners to take a hard line on drug traffickers.

If the four are successful, though, their new sentences will be 20 years. With the eight years they have already spent in Kerobokan prison taken into account, they would have only 12 years left to serve.

Remissions for good behaviour — which in Indonesia are handed out twice a year — could reduce this further so that their likely release date would be 2020 or 2021.

A spokesman for the remission section of the Director General of Corrections in Jakarta said officials were now working on documents of the four, all of whom are serving life sentences without hope of release.

The documents had arrived “a few weeks ago”, the spokesman said. However, without specifying any limit, he said it would take “a long time” before the four to receive an answer.

It’s usual for remissions of sentence to be announced to coincide with Indonesia’s national day in August.

New regulations in Indonesia require drug prisoners, terrorists and others to promise to be “justice collaborators”, and that they express guilt and remorse for their crimes.

Fairfax Media understands that the four prisoners have now met those criteria to the satisfaction of Bali’s provincial authorities and Kerobokan prison leaders.

But in Jakarta the National Narcotics Agency BNN is running a hardline campaign for drug traffickers to be treated harshly. It’s still possible that Syamsuddin or a team of senior bureaucrats who advise him, will be spooked by that campaign and reject the applications.

One Bali Nine prisoner, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “If they deny it I’ll be so devastated, but I can’t see how they can”.

It is the third time that Stephens, Norman, Nguyen and Chen have applied for remission. The first attempt, in 2011, was stopped with all other remission requests because of a riot in January 2012.

The second was rejected because of the “justice collaborators” regulation. The men made their third application in early May.

As well as expressions of remorse and willingness to cooperate with authorities, the applications include letters showing support from family members, prison guards and other prison officials.

The Bali Nine were convicted in 2005 of attempting to traffic 8.3kg of heroin from Bali to Australia. Two of them, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, still face death sentences and have appealed to president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for clemency.

Renae Lawrence is serving a 20 year sentence and could be released as soon as 2016. The others are serving life. Michael Czugaj is appealing his sentence, and Scott Rush has exhausted his appeals, and has not yet lodged a bid for sentence remission.

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