British billionaire joins clemency call for two Australians in Indonesia
Xinhua, March 11, 2015 Adjust font size:
Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, has thrown his support behind Australia's bid to gain clemency for two Australian citizens on death row in Indonesia.
The English businessman has pleaded with Indonesia to consider "different approaches" in dealing with treating drug use and said he is willing to fly to the country to put forward proposals to the government.
Two Australian citizens, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, have been sent to Indonesia's Nusakambangan Island where they will face execution imminently, having been sentenced to death for a plot to smuggle 8.3 kilograms of heroin from Bali to Australia in 2005.
Speaking to the ABC on Wednesday, Branson said that his time working on the Global Commission on Drug Policy has shown there is evidence to suggest differing approaches to drug use will lower crime rates.
"What we have learned is that treating drugs as a health issue, not as a criminal issue, it actually helps lower the number of drug deaths," Branson said.
"It limits the spread of infectious diseases like HIV and AIDS or Hepatitis C, it reduces drug-related crime and it allows people who struggle with addiction to become useful members of society again.
"We would love to be able to show the Indonesian government how countries like Portugal and others have completely overcome their drug problem by taking a very, very different approach."
Branson even revealed that he would be willing to travel to Indonesia immediately to meet with President Joko Widodo over different measures in handling drug problems.
"I am willing to go and get on a plane today, tomorrow, as are the other commissioners," he said.
"What we want to do is try to be helpful. All of our research is evidence-based and we have studied different national approaches in great depth."
Branson's comments come as Indonesia warned Australia not to antagonize it over its use of the death penalty.
Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, the country's minister for political, legal and security affairs, said on Tuesday that Indonesia could withdraw cooperation in relation to Australia's asylum seeker policy, which would cause a "human tsunami" of immigrants to come to Australian shores. Endi