BALI 9: AFP says international drug dealers cannot be protected

AFP Deputy Commissioner Mike Phelan has said if Australians become involved in drug deals that cross international borders, authorities cannot guarantee their protection from death row.
AFP Deputy Commissioner Mike Phelan has said if Australians become involved in drug deals that cross international borders, authorities cannot guarantee their protection from death row.

THE head of the Australian Federal Police could not guarantee Australians would not face executions overseas, if they chose to get involved in transnational crime and drug syndicates.

AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin and deputy commissioners Mike Phelan and Leanne Close fronted reporters in Canberra on Monday morning to explain the AFP's actions in the 10-year old Bali Nine case.

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The police scheduled the press conference despite Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop previously dismissing public concerns about the AFPs involvement, after an internal review led to more stringent rules regarding information sharing with countries with the death penalty.

Despite Australia's official stance against the death penalty, critics have claimed the AFP put the drug smugglers at risk of execution by informing Indonesian authorities about the drug smuggling plot, rather than wait until they arrived in Australia to arrest them.

However, the AFP's role in providing information to Indonesian authorities that led to the Bali Nine arrests in 2005 has come under increased scrutiny in recent months as two key smugglers, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukamaran, fought a failed bid for clemency.

Despite Australia's official stance against the death penalty, critics have claimed the AFP put the drug smugglers at risk of execution by informing Indonesian authorities about the drug smuggling plot, rather than wait until they arrived in Australia to arrest them.

Andrew Chan, right, and Myuran Sukumaran were executed by Indonesian authorities after being caught attempting to smuggle a large quantity of heroin out of the country.
Andrew Chan, right, and Myuran Sukumaran were executed by Indonesian authorities after being caught attempting to smuggle a large quantity of heroin out of the country.

But Comm Colvin said he was unable to assure the community that similar executions could not happen again, as long as Australians chose to travel overseas and participate in drug trafficking or transnational crime.

He said the AFP had reviewed and expanded its factors, including the death penalty, it had to assess before providing foreign nations with information during transnational crime investigations.

"If there is to be a message out of these executions, I sincerely hope that other young lives will be saved by choosing not to participate," he said.

But Com Colvin also hit out at the media and political cartoonists for depicting AFP officers as having "blood on our hands" or in cartoons as the firing squad

Other close observers including Bob Myers have said the AFP also had enough evidence to arrest the would-be smugglers before they even left Australia, which officials have disputed.

Mr Myers told ABC this morning that recently-executed smugglers Chan and Sukamaran were dead because federal police did not fulfil their obligation not to expose Australian citizens to the death penalty.

The issue came to a head last week with the executions of the pair, after which Labor politicians claimed the government had removed that obligation from official ministerial directives to the AFP.

But Justice Minister Michael Keenan and Ms Bishop have said Labor's claim politicised the situation and was irrelevant given the police had official guidelines not to expose Australians to executions in foreign nations.


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