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| On death row, Scott Rush awaits one last decision |
SCOTT Rush approaches me in the packed visiting area of Kerobokan Jail, sporting khaki army shorts, T-shirt and cap worn backwards.
It is September last year and he does not yet know whether his last attempt at an appeal has any real chance. Asked if he thinks he will escape the death penalty, he is quiet and contemplative: "They say in here things go in threes; look at the Bali bombers," he says referring to the three executions in November 2008.
He is comparing them to his situation with fellow Bali Nine drug-smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, also on death row.
Was it difficult to think of anything else besides the firing squad? "Before, I used to wake up thinking about death hanging over my head but I'm past that now. I'm not scared of death, more about dealing with other things and people."
He says he's glad he's not in a state of denial. His gaze is unwavering as he declares brightly: "Denial is the worst thing. I'm glad I learnt about acceptance before this happened."
This month, almost five years after the Bali Nine were picked up trying to smuggle 8.3kg of heroin from Bali to Australia, Rush will face his final appeal against the death sentence. His Indonesian lawyer, Robert Khuana, is optimistic the judicial review, called a PK, or Reconsideration, which failed in the Supreme Court in 2007, will this time save Rush from the firing squad. Leading a six-member team, Khuana will appear before a different panel of judges. He believes a sentence reduction, with Rush serving 10 to 15 years, is achievable.
Khuana will call on three witnesses, two of whom have not so far been named. But in an about-face, courier Renae Lawrence, who is serving 20 years, has agreed to be a witness. Her lawyer, Anggia Lubis Browne, yesterday confirmed Lawrence would testify in court that Rush was just a courier in a bid to prevent his execution. It is not known whether the other witnesses are fellow Bali Nine inmates.
"I believe Rush was just a courier," says Browne. "Renae feels very strongly about it." Lawrence had said in January she would provide a statement but would not go to court.
If the review fails, Rush's last avenue is to seek clemency from Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is not known to be merciful to drug traffickers. Kevin Rudd could also make a clemency plea to the President, who is visiting Australia today. It is likely the death sentences of Rush and Bali Nine ringleaders Chan and Sukumaran, who will lodge appeals soon after Rush, will be discussed.
Khuana believes it's an auspicious time for discussing the Australians' fate.
"I think there will be a discussion between the two leaders about the death penalty policy," he says. "Maybe this will impact on the Australians in Indonesia. This is a good time for SBY to change the death penalty."
Rush's sentence remains an anomaly. Of the six couriers arrested at Denpasar airport in April 2005 by Indonesian authorities, Rush, who had 1.3kg of heroin strapped to his body, is the only one now sentenced to execution. Four others, Si Yi Chen, Matthew Norman, Michael Czugaj and Martin Stephens, are serving life sentences and Lawrence 20 years.
Khuana will argue that Rush was merely a courier while three others of the nine were "organisers" -- Chan, Sukumaran and Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, "the recruiter", whose death sentence was commuted to life in 2008.
"We are sure the judge made a big mistake," says Khuana. "We will argue this is . . . a mistake. Our question is why was the decision different for Scott compared with the other five couriers? Why did they apply the same facts but impose a different punishment?"
On the day I first visit Rush in Kerobokan, he looks pallid, his skin almost translucent. From a distance he appears ill, but his wan appearance is a result of spending his time indoors.
He is worried about the romantic bond he forged with Melburnian Laura Pemberton, who started visiting him in 2008. They pledged their "eternal love" for each other. Now he's angry and upset that the love affair seems to be over.
"I had a lot of girls back home . . . I've put my heart on the line. I wanted someone to see me for who I am."
He wants her to return mementos he gave her that are precious to him. He mentions some rosary beads, a football jersey. He has tried desperately to contact her.
"I want her to come back," he says, but he feels powerless. "I pushed her away (from media attention) for her own safety. I thought we had a good thing going. I've let all my dignity go. I'm going to end up being a hollow person, I'm going to be an arsehole."
Pemberton, speaking by phone from Melbourne, will not comment on the relationship. Asked if she would go to Bali to see Rush, she says: "I will be there for him."
Asked again in November about her feelings for Rush, she says: "I still care about him a great deal. He's free to contact me at any time -- tell him that. Whenever he needs me, I'll be there."
"When is his appeal coming up?" she asks. "I'll be there for him then."
Was there a cooling in their relationship?
"A lot of stuff has happened. But I never wouldn't be there for him. But he's on death row -- and they're all going to die," she shouts.
It was Rush's father who first alerted Australian Federal Police to the smuggling operation, in an attempt to stop his son going. There have been recriminations from other Bali Nine members. . . . "Everyone did bear a grudge but either way we would have been caught. But if we had been caught in Australia we'd be out of jail by now," Stephens said last week.
Asked if Bali Nine members had grown close after sharing five years in Kerobokan, Stephens says: "We're not friends, we weren't in the beginning and we're not now. I don't trust anyone in here. I only talk to my girlfriend . . . When we get out . . . I'm sure we'll never see each other again."
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