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'Bali Nine': Australia Pulls Ambassador from Indonesia After Execution

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he is pulling his country's ambassador following the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.
/ Source: NBC News

Australia is pulling its ambassador out of Indonesia in response to the presumed execution of two Australian nationals convicted of drug smuggling almost a decade ago, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Wednesday.

The men — Andrew Chan, 31, and Myuran Sukumaran, 33 — were described as the ringleaders of the so-called Bali Nine, a group of nine Australians convicted in 2006 of smuggling heroin from Indonesia to Australia.

The pair was killed by firing squad early Wednesday along with six others convicted in other drug smuggling cases, according to reports in Indonesia.

"It is unusual and unprecedented for an ambassador to be withdrawn," Abbott acknowledged to reporters, adding that he still hopes to continue a relationship on a prime minister to president level between Australia and Indonesia.

Indonesian officials did not immediately respond to Australia's decision to withdraw its ambassador, Paul Grigson, by the end of the week.

Australian drug traffickers Andrew Chan (left) and Myuran Sukumaran (right) the ringleaders of the "Bali Nine" drug ring, look on from a holding cell while awaiting a court trial in Denpasar on Bali island on Feb. 14, 2006.JEWEL SAMAD / AFP - Getty Images file

Abbott recognized that Chan and Sukumaran were found guilty, but said they did not deserve to be executed after being rehabilitated during their imprisonment. Chan had since become an ordained pastor and even wed his Indonesian girlfriend on Monday, while Sukumaran channeled his experience into art.

"The drug trade is evil and these two have committed a serious crime," Abbott said. "But particularly given the last 10 years and the reform these two demonstrated, it is — as I say — cruel and unnecessary."

Australia has abolished capital punishment, last instituting it in 1967.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told reporters that the country's officials were still awaiting formal identification of those executed early Wednesday.

Chan's brother, Michael Chan, expressed his grief on Twitter after last-minute diplomatic attempts to save his brother failed: "I have just lost a Courageous brother to a flawed Indonesian legal system," he wrote. "I miss you already RIP my Little Brother."

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— Erik Ortiz