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Australians with IS ‘serious threat’


About 90 Australians are believed to have joined the ranks of IS in Syria and Iraq

Australians fighting alongside Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria and Iraq pose a “serious national security threat”, according to a new report.

However, the Lowy Institute for International Policy report said the government’s response could help lower the risk of an attack.

It suggested returning foreign fighters could be placed into deradicalisation programmes rather than jailed.

About 90 Australians are believed to have travelled to fight with IS.

Of those, at least 20 are reported to have been killed in the fighting.

On Tuesday, the father of a Melbourne man told broadcaster SBS he had been told his son had been killed in Syria. The Department of Foreign Affairs could not confirm the report.

Last September, the Australian government raised the national security level to “high”, describing the threat posed by foreign fighters as its “number-one national security priority”.

The report, written by Andrew Zammit, a researcher at Melbourne’s Monash University, said the threat posed by returning fighters required a “wide-ranging counter-terrorist response that includes non-coercive measures”.

He said Australia could learn lessons from European countries.


This image is believed to show Melbourne teenager Jake Bilardi, centre, who died in an IS suicide attack last month

“Returned foreign fighters have been involved in many of the most serious jihadist plots in the West, including in Australia. Returnees from Syria have already engaged in terrorist plots in Europe, and the large number of Australians involved with groups such as IS and Jabhat al-Nusra raises well-founded fears of an increased threat at home”, the report said.

“Australia needs a wide range of tools to tackle the foreign fighter threat, not least because imprisonment, while often necessary, is not a cure-all. An imprisoned jihadist can radicalise other prisoners, inspire supporters outside, and may emerge from prison no less extreme or dangerous”, it added.

However, Mr Zammit argues the threat “may turn out to be less than feared”.

“A range of factors will determine the threat, including Australia’s response. While much of the responsibility will lie with the police and intelligence services, CVE (Countering Violent Extremism) measures need to be a core element of the response, as they have been in the past.

“Australia can learn valuable lessons from European countries, which are already using CVE measures to address the issue of foreign fighters, although any Australian approach must be carefully calibrated for the local context.”

Mr Zammit said the government’s “troubled relations” with Muslim communities meant that its efforts to counter violent extremism were “not off to the strongest of starts”.

In March, Australian teenager Jake Bilardi was believed to have died while carrying out a suicide attack in Iraq. His father, John Bilardi, said his son had been a “prize” for IS.

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Why Australia protects ‘Anzac’

A storm of criticism broke over Australia’s largest retailer Woolworths, this week, when it tried to link its own marketing slogans to one of the nation’s most sacred cows.

Ahead of the centenary of Australia’s involvement in the disastrous World War One Gallipoli campaign, the supermarket chain asked shoppers to share a memory of someone affected by war, using the words “Lest We Forget Anzac 1915-2015. Fresh in our memories”.

Anzac Day – 25 April – is arguably Australia’s most important national occasion. It marks the anniversary of the first campaign that led to major casualties for Australian and New Zealand forces during World War One and commemorates all the conflicts that followed.

The problem is, for some time Woolworths has branded itself “the fresh food people”.

The ensuing backlash on social media showed Australians don’t want Gallipoli – which in recent years has been elevated to an almost spiritual plane – tainted by commercial considerations.


Australians and New Zealanders will be commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign this year

That reverence is backed by law.

In 1921, regulations were put in place to protect the word “Anzac” from inappropriate use.

You can’t use the word “Anzac” in connection with any trade, business, private residence, boat, vehicle or charitable or other institution, or any building, without the authority of Australia’s Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.

Anzac isn’t the only word in the Australian lexicon to get special treatment.

In 2000, the Australian government made it illegal for corporate names to suggest a link to legendary cricketer, Sir Donald Bradman, if no such link actually existed.


Sir Bradman seen here in 1938 at a Test match in the UK

Bradman’s life story is part of Australian folklore – a country boy whose rose to the top of world cricket.

So important is he to Australian’s sense of history that the nation’s ability to make it through the Great Depression is attributed in part to his ability to smack willow on leather. It didn’t hurt that he thrashed the British at their own game.

The only other Australian to receive name branding protection is Australia’s first and only real saint, Mary MacKillop.

Taking the nun’s name in vain – she was canonised in 2010 – may perhaps bring down the wrath of God, but following a change to Australia’s Corporations Law in 2010, using her name to sell biscuits or tea towels without permission could also invoke the wrath of the Australian government.

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Rare whale found on Australia beach


The Omura’s whale was first identified as a distinct species in 2003

The carcass of a rare whale has been washed up on a Western Australia beach following Tropical Cyclone Olwyn, which hit the region last month.

It is only the second time an Omura’s whale has been recorded in Australia.

The whale was found on a remote beach near the town of Exmouth, 1,265km (784 miles) north of Perth.

Scientists say the discovery will help them learn more about the species and better understand its regional distribution.

Omura’s whales have a streamlined body shape and several unique skeletal features that distinguish them from other whales.

“This find is highly significant for whale scientists in Western Australia and researchers globally because there have not been many recorded sightings of this species, so very little is known about it,” said Western Australia Environment Minister Albert Jacob.

“Omura’s whale was only described in scientific journals for the first time in 2003 and is apparently restricted to tropical and subtropical waters.

“The knowledge we gain from this whale will help to improve field identification guides to better understand the whale’s regional distribution.”

He added: “Scientists know a fair bit about many whale species but this exciting discovery shows there is still so much more to learn in our oceans.”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature says that only a handful of Omura’s whales have been found before, including in the Sea of Japan and the Solomon Sea.

Little is known about them and it is still not possible to estimate their numbers.

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Australia crackdown on non-immunisers

The Australian government has announced that it intends to stop welfare payments to parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.

The “no jab, no pay” policy may cost parents more than A$11,000 a year per child in lost benefit payments.

Families with children not immunised have been able to receive childcare cash if they have a philosophical or religious objection to vaccines.

PM Tony Abbott said that the rules would soon be substantially tightened.

He said that there would only be a small number of religious and medical exceptions to the new rules – supported by the Labor opposition and due to come into effect in early 2016.

The prime minister refused to say in detail how much money the initiative would save.

“It’s a very important public health announcement, it’s a very important measure to keep our children and our families as safe as possible,” ABC News quoted him as saying.

The prime minister said that his government was “extremely concerned” about the risks posed to the rest of the population by families who chose not to immunise their children.

“The choice… is not supported by public policy or medical research nor should such action be supported by taxpayers in the form of child care payments,” Mr Abbott said in a joint statement with Social Services Minister Scott Morrison.

Anti-vaccination campaigns have been gaining ground in some Western countries in recent years – coinciding with a resurgence in preventable childhood diseases like measles.

The campaigners say that some vaccines against deadly diseases are dangerous. An online petition against compulsory vaccinations – with more than 3,000 signatures over the last five days – states that Australian parents have the right to make “an uncoerced choice”.

The government estimates that about 39,000 children aged under seven have not been vaccinated because of the objections of their parents.

Mr Morrison said that no mainstream religions have registered objections to the proposals with the government.

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Australian firms take to four wheels

Hairdresser Ep Weatherhead has a business that is going places.

The owner of the first mobile barber’s shop in Australia, from Tuesdays to Saturdays she parks her converted van at different locations across Sydney’s beachside suburb of Maroubra.

Together with one part-time member of staff, she cuts the hair of 40 men and boys on an average day.

The business – called The Barber Van – was set up in 2011 with 60,000 Australian dollars ($46,000; £31,000) of investment. Ms Weatherhead, 46, says she now has up to 1,000 regular customers paying 25 Australian dollars for a haircut.

She maintains a timetable on her website, so that users can check where to find her on a particular morning or afternoon. And she has all the permits she needs from the local authority to allow her to park and run her business.


Ep Weatherhead (left) now has up to 1,000 regular customers coming for haircuts

When Ms Weatherhead launched the mobile operation, she had been running a traditional bricks and mortar hairdresser salon for a number of years, but as the van quickly grew in popularity she closed the store to focus her efforts.

The Barber Van is part of a growing trend of Australian small firms hitting the road.

Led by the food sector, but now extending to other industries, more and more businesses are embracing the flexibility and significantly lower overheads that come from running their business on four wheels.

Mobile back rubs

Andrew Ward, founder of Sydney-based massage business 3 Minute Angels, says that launching a mobile massage centre is the next logical step for his firm.

Set up in 2002, his trained masseurs are currently hired by businesses to provide massages in the workplace, or at events such as conferences and trade shows.


Andrew Ward is hoping that members of the public will help fund his planned Divine Truck

Mr Ward also says that running a massage van could enable people to enjoy a neck and back rub while enjoying a better view.

“I thought if you could look out over the beach or mountains whilst getting a massage – that would be an awesome personal experience,” he says.

To help fund the van, which he plans to call The Divine Truck, he has launched a crowdfunding campaign, hoping to raise money from members of the people in exchange for them being the first to be able to use the service.


Andrew Ward wants his customers to be able to have a massage while looking at a good view

He aims to raise 10,000 Australian dollars, to which he will need to add up to 15,000 Australian dollars.

“Even at maximum cost of 25,000 Australian dollars the truck would be a business premises that is less than half the bond on a prime retail lease in Sydney that I was previously looking at,” he says.

Mr Ward already has a hi-tech design for his van drawn up, including transparent plastic walls.

“I thought when people see other people getting a massage it will make them want one too,” he says.

“Of course we have internal blinds, so if a customer doesn’t want to look out, or have people look in, we can make any of the three transparent walls private.”

Shark on wheels

Paul Sharp’s travelling business – a museum called Shark in a Bus – is a labour of love.

Containing a varied collection of marine artefacts, the star of the show is a 5m-long (16ft) preserved great white shark called Frankie.


The Shark in a Bus museum tours Australia in a converted 1957 Leyland bus


But customers can be thin on the ground in Australia’s outback

“It’s my family collection,” says Mr Sharp.

“Dad started collecting in the 1960s, and the exhibition has been displayed at various places. Before my father died he passed on the bulk of the collection to me. So I decided to re-interpret the display as a Shark in a Bus – a transportable museum.”

Mr Sharp, who tours the museum around Australia, charges a five Australian dollar entry fee.

“Business is extremely variable,” he says. “I have had anywhere between six to over 1,000 people through in a day. Last year… we had 15,000 people view the collection.”

Mobile laundry

The voluntary sector in Australia has also caught the mobile bug, such as Orange Sky Laundry.

Launched in October of last year, the mobile laundry van provides free clothes washing for homeless people in Brisbane.


Nicholas Marchesi (left) and Lucas Patchett allow homeless people to wash their clothes for free

Founders and friends Nicholas Marchesi and Lucas Patchett have their own generator and arrange to source a water supply for free from either local businesses or a council.

Today, they have a team of 130 volunteers and average anywhere from 10 to 20 wash cycles per day across their two vans, each of which has a pair of washing machines and dryers.

Growth plans

Back at Ms Weatherhead’s mobile hair salon, she cannot afford to secure water supplies for her van.

“We only do dry cuts,” she explains. “If you had to wash hair you would require a clean water supply, waste water supply and a whole lot of other stuff. I have priced it and it would be prohibitive.”

Yet despite the restrictions on what haircuts she can offer, she has plans to expand across Australia.

In the meantime she has secured a regular contract with the Royal Australian Navy to drive her van to three naval bases.

“This represents the growth I have been waiting for,” she says.

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Australia approves John Holland sale


Leighton Holdings purchased John Holland Group in 2000

Australia has approved the sale of Leighton Holding’s John Holland Group, one the country’s biggest construction firms, to China Communications Construction Company (CCCC).

The A$1.15bn ($879m; £593m) deal was announced last year but was subject to regulatory approval.

State-owned CCCC is the world’s fourth-largest building company.

Australia said it welcomed foreign investment “where it was not contrary to [the] national interest”.

“Foreign investment has helped build Australia’s economy and will continue to enhance the wellbeing of Australians by supporting economic growth and prosperity,” Treasurer Joe Hockey said.

John Holland has a more than 60-year history of operations in Australia and employs more than 5,600 people across eight countries.

Its recent projects include railway-related developments in the states of New South Wales and Victoria, a prison in Melbourne and a billion-dollar children’s hospital in Perth, among others.

China’s CCCC, together with its wholly-owned China Communications Construction Company International (CCCI), the arm that will take over John Holland, has a presence in more than 80 countries.

In 2009, the World Bank announced it had debarred CCCC for fraudulent practices around a road project in the Philippines. It said the firm was ineligible to work on any road projects funded by the bank until 2017.

Noting this issue, Mr Hockey said “appropriate arrangements had been put in place to mitigate any concerns”.

Right step


John Holland employs almost 6,000 people across several countries

Evan Lucas, a market strategist with IG in Melbourne, said John Holland had been under financial pressure for several years and had been a source of angst for Leighton, which bought it in 2000.

Wednesday’s decision was the right step for promoting foreign direct investment in Australia and proved that suitable places could still be found for foreign funds, he said.

“Supply of work has been below trend and the amount of operators has ramped up over this period, increasing the pressure.”

Mr Lucas said the deal would deleverage Leighton, add new funding to John Holland, and keep competition for infrastructure projects in Australia robust.

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Australia ‘crystal meth’ clampdown

Australia’s government has established a national taskforce to tackle growing use of crystal methamphetamine, or ice.

The taskforce will examine state and federal efforts to eradicate the illegal substance and identify ways to improve those strategies.

The move follows a March report by the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) that found ice posed the highest risk to communities of any illegal substance.

PM Tony Abbott said use of the drug was a growing problem around Australia.

“As a citizen and as a parent I am appalled at what is happening on our streets and in our homes,” Mr Abbott said at a press conference on Wednesday.

“Ice is far more addictive than any other illicit drug. It does far more damage than any other illicit drug,” he said.

“The propensity for violence, the propensity to subsequent, very serious mental illness, the propensity to disfigurement which ice produces means that this is a drug epidemic way beyond anything that we have seen before now.”

High price

According to a 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 7% of the Australian population aged 14 years or older have reported using amphetamine or methamphetamine at least once in their lifetime.

In the same survey, 2.1% reported recent use. These figures remain unchanged from those reported in 2010.


Methamphetamine is most commonly used in its crystal form – known as “ice”

The reported use of powder methamphetamine fell significantly between 2010 and 2013 but the reported use of ice more than doubled. People are also using ice more frequently, with many people using it daily or weekly.

The crime commission report found that the purity of the drug available in Australia had increased over the past few years, making it even more dangerous.

It said the price of crystal meth in Australia was among the highest in the world, driving the country’s organised crime gangs to trade increasingly in the drug. More than 60% of Australia’s major organised crime figures now deal in crystal meth.

It said that, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the average street price per gram of methamphetamine in China is $80 (A$105, £54), whereas in Australia it is $500. Wholesale prices in Australia have been recorded as ranging from A$90,000 ($68,875, £44,450) to A$325,000 per kg.

The government hopes to develop a national ice strategy and to collate an interim report to be handed to Mr Abbott by the middle of this year.

The Labor opposition said it would support the government’s taskforce.

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Australia drug pair in new legal bid

Lawyers for two Australian drug smugglers on death row in Indonesia say they will continue to fight for them, after losing a legal challenge.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the leaders of the “Bali Nine” group of heroin smugglers, are set to be executed in Indonesia soon.

On Monday a court ruled they cannot challenge the president’s decision to refuse them clemency.

But their lawyer said the case would now go to the constitutional court.

“We believe that these men over the last 10 years have rehabilitated themselves and we are very concerned that that fact has not been properly and genuinely considered by the Indonesian authorities and the Indonesian legal system,” Michael O’Connell told the BBC.

“There is no further appeal that lies in the administrative court, however… Andrew and Myuran will file an application in the Indonesian Constitutional Court challenging the interpretation of the clemency law and arguing that the president has an obligation to properly and genuinely consider their exceptional rehabilitation.”

The application would be filed this week, he said, with a preliminary hearing expected “a week or two afterwards”.


On Monday the administrative court ruled it had no authority to consider the men’s case

‘Playing with justice’

Both men had clemency appeals rejected by Indonesian President Joko Widodo earlier this year.

Mr Widodo, who took office last year, has a policy of denying clemency to drug offenders, saying the drug trade has caused huge damage to Indonesia.

In January he authorised the executions of six drug offenders, including five foreigners. The two Australians are in a second group, of 10 foreign nationals, to be put to death.

No date has been set for the executions, however. Indonesian authorities say they are waiting for all legal avenues be exhausted in all of the convicts’ cases before the group are executed.

On Monday, responding to news of the constitutional court challenge, Indonesian Attorney-General Muhammad Prasetyo said: “The legal process is already done.”

“This proves that they are simply trying to buy time. We can say they are playing with justice,” the AFP news agency quoted him as saying.

But another lawyer for the men, Peter Morrissey, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the aim was to get the men’s cases for clemency properly heard, not “some delaying tactic”.

“No matter what our opponents might like to say or how they’d like to get around it, this is litigation.”

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, in a statement on Monday, said it was “important that all legal processes are allowed to run their course”.

Chan and Sukumaran were arrested in Bali in 2005 while attempting to smuggle heroin to Australia. A court ruled that they had organised a nine-member smuggling operation.

But their families have argued that they are now reformed characters and should be shown mercy. Australia has also mounted a passionate diplomatic campaign on their behalf.

Indonesia has faced criticism from other countries whose nationals are facing execution. The group of 10 includes people from Brazil, France, Nigeria and the Philippines among others.

Who are the Bali Nine?

  • The eight men and one woman were arrested in April 2005 at an airport and hotel in Bali, Indonesia after a tip-off from Australian police. They were trying to carry 8.3kg (18lb) of heroin back to Australia
  • In 2006 a court ruled that Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran had recruited the others and paid their costs. They were sentenced to death
  • The other seven are serving sentences of between 20 years and life, after some had death sentences revoked on appeal
  • Chan and Sukumaran have repeatedly appealed against their sentences and say they are reformed characters – Chan teaches Bible and cookery classes in prison while Sukumaran is an artist
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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-32194632#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

Prince Harry arrives in Australia

Prince Harry has arrived in Australia for a four-week placement with the Australian Defence Force.

He laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier in Canberra before officially reporting for duty.

He also presented a letter from the Queen in which she wrote that her grandson would “benefit greatly” from spending time with Australian troops.

The prince, called Captain Wales in his military role, will leave the British army in June after 10 years’ service.

During his placement in Australia, he will patrol with Aboriginal soldiers and train with the country’s special forces.

He officially reported for duty to Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, Chief of the Defence Force, after laying his wreath and placing a poppy during a tour of the Australian War Memorial.


The prince has arrived in Australia for a secondment with the country’s military


He was greeted by cheering crowds in the capital, Canberra


A sign saying “red heads rule” was displayed on a barrier

‘Common values’

He also presented the Queen’s letter, in which she wrote: “I am delighted that the long and enduring association between the Australian and British armies will be joined by the military secondment of my grandson, Prince Harry.

“Together, our armed forces share skills, resources and resolve in order to uphold and defend our common values.

“In 2015, when together we commemorate the many sacrifices of our countrymen at Gallipoli a century ago, it is fitting that we can also reflect on the strength and persistence today of those common values and our professional military ties.

“I know that Captain Wales will benefit greatly from spending time with the Australian Diggers [soldiers] and I thank you for welcoming him into your ranks.”


The prince met some Australian military personnel before his placement began


He laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier


There was time for solemn reflection after the cheering welcome

The Australian military has said the placement will be “challenging and hectic”, and the prince has said he is “tremendously looking forward” to it.

The placement will be briefly interrupted when he travels to Turkey later this month for commemorations to mark the allied campaign at Gallipoli in 1915, in which thousands of soldiers from Australia and New Zealand were among the dead.

It is believed that the prince will do voluntary work for charities later in the year as he considers his future options.

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Australians’ death row appeal fails


Relatives of Andrew Chan (L) and Myuran Sukumaran (R) say they are now reformed characters

Two Australian drug smugglers sentenced to death cannot challenge the president’s decision to refuse them clemency, an Indonesian court has ruled.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were the leaders of the “Bali Nine” group of heroin smugglers arrested in 2005.

They are scheduled to be executed by firing squad in Indonesia soon.

Australia has campaigned hard for their sentences to be commuted and their supporters say they have reformed.

Both men were appealing against an earlier ruling which had barred them from challenging Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s rejection of their clemency pleas.

Their lawyers had argued that Mr Widodo – whose stated policy is to deny clemency to drug offenders – had not given adequate consideration to the men’s cases.

But the State Administrative Court in Jakarta upheld the earlier decision, saying it had no authority to take the case.

It is not clear where the legal proceedings go now. A spokesman for Indonesia’s attorney-general, quoted by Reuters news agency, said the men had exhausted all possible options.

But a lawyer for Chan and Sukumaran told journalists: “We will continue our legal efforts”.


The men have been transferred to Indonesia’s Nusa Kambangan prison to await their executions

Analysis: Karishma Vaswani, BBC Indonesia editor

The rejection of the appeal was widely expected. Chan and Sukumaran’s challenge to Mr Widodo’s decision to ban all clemencies was unprecedented both in its audacity and in its legal scope. An Indonesian court had already ruled that it didn’t have the authority to make a decision on a presidential ban.

The legal options that the men now have available to them are limited. Their lawyers can appeal against this decision but they are likely to be unsuccessful as they have been in all of their previous attempts. Analysts say once a death row convict’s clemency has been rejected by the president, it is next to impossible to reverse that decision.

Chan and Sukumaran’s lawyers would know this, but appear to be doing all they can to extend the legal process. Diplomatic efforts to save the two men have so far backfired, and ties between Indonesia and Australia have frayed.


All of Australia’s living former prime ministers have called for mercy to be shown

Reformed characters

Mr Widodo, who took office last year, has been taking a tough stance on drug crime.

In January he authorised the executions of six people, including five foreigners, convicted of drug offences.

The two Australians are in a second group, of 10 foreign nationals, to be put to death. But no date has been set for the executions.

Indonesian authorities say they are waiting for all legal avenues be exhausted in all of the convicts’ cases before the group are executed.

Chan and Sukumaran were arrested in Bali in 2005 while attempting to smuggle heroin to Australia.

A court ruled that they had organised a nine-member smuggling operation and they were sentenced to death in 2006.

But their families have argued that they are now reformed characters and should be shown mercy.

Australia has also mounted a passionate diplomatic campaign on their behalf.

The current government has made repeated appeals for the sentences not to be carried out and in February all of Australia’s living former prime ministers made a united plea for Indonesia to spare their lives.

In a statement, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the government was disappointed by the decision.

“Both men have undergone extensive rehabilitation and I will continue to make representations to my counterpart, just as Australia will continue to use all diplomatic options to seek a stay of execution.”

Indonesia has also faced criticism from other countries whose nationals are facing execution. The group of 10 includes people from Brazil, France, Nigeria and the Philippines among others.

Who are the Bali Nine?

  • The eight men and one woman were arrested in April 2005 at an airport and hotel in Bali, Indonesia after a tip-off from Australian police. They were trying to carry 8.3kg (18lb) of heroin back to Australia
  • In 2006 a court ruled that Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran had recruited the others and paid their costs. They were sentenced to death
  • The other seven are serving sentences of between 20 years and life, after some had death sentences revoked on appeal
  • Chan and Sukumaran have repeatedly appealed against their sentences and say they are reformed characters – Chan teaches Bible and cookery classes in prison while Sukumaran is an artist
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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-32193992#sa-ns_mchannel=rss&ns_source=PublicRSS20-sa

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