Australia recalls ambassador after Indonesia executes drug smuggling pair

Updated: 2015-04-29 09:32


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CANBERRA - Australia has made the unprecedented move of recalling its ambassador to Indonesia, in the wake of the executions of two Australians for drug smuggling.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed the move to withdraw ambassador Paul Grigson on Wednesday, calling the executions by firing squad of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran "cruel and unnecessary".

"We respect Indonesia's sovereignty but we do deplore what's been done and this cannot be simply business as usual," he said at a press conference confirming the Australians deaths.

"For that reason, once all the courtesies have been extended to the Chan and Sukumaran families, our ambassador will be withdrawn for consultations." "I want to stress that this is a very important relationship between Australia and Indonesia but it has suffered as a result of what's been done over the last few hours."

Abbott said he did not want to minimize "the gravity of what we 've done."

Australia has never before withdrawn an official when a citizen has been executed by a foreign country.

Ministerial contacts have also been suspended and it remains unclear when they will be re-established.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said carrying out the executions was "senseless" given Chan, 31, and Sukumaran, 34, had rehabilitated themselves.

"They had reformed and they had a contribution to make," she said.

The Australians were sentenced to death in 2005 for their lead roles in the Bali Nine heroin smuggling operation.

During a decade spent on death row, both made concerted efforts to rehabilitate, with Chan becoming a Christian minister and Sukumaran a qualified fine artist. Both led education and counseling services for fellow prisoners.

The pair, along with the family, friends and thousands of supporters, unsuccessfully petitioned Indonesian President Joko Widodo to grant clemency and sentence them to life in prison instead.

Widodo stated in a speech in December he would not approve any clemencies for drug offenses.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten and his deputy Tanya Plibersek released a joint statement saying Australia was "deeply hurt that our pleas for mercy were ignored". "Indonesia has not just robbed two young men of their lives but robbed itself of two examples of the strengths of its justice system," the statement said.

"It was completely unacceptable for Indonesia to proceed as it did when critical legal processes were yet to run their course, raising serious questions about Indonesia's commitment to the rule of law."

Fellow Opposition MP Tony Burke simply tweeted: "Lives lost. Nothing gained."

The bodies of Chan and Sukumaran will be moved to Jakarta from the high-security prison island of Nusakambangan before being transported to Australia for burial.