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Indonesian court adjourns death row Australians' appeal

[JAKARTA] An Indonesian court on Thursday adjourned the latest legal bid by two Australian drug smugglers to avoid the firing squad, as Jakarta said they will not be executed until appeals filed by several convicts are completed.

Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, the ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" drug trafficking gang, were sentenced to death in 2006 for trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia.

Their appeals for presidential clemency, typically a death row convict's final chance of avoiding the firing squad, were recently rejected by Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

They are expected to be executed at the same time as eight other drug convicts, including nationals from France, Brazil, Nigeria, Ghana and the Philippines, as well as one Indonesian.

The Australians' legal team, in its latest bid to avoid execution, argued against Mr Joko's decision to reject their pleas for clemency, saying he failed to assess their rehabilitation or give reasons for his decision.

The Jakarta State Administrative Court dismissed the bid last month, and the Australians' lawyers are now appealing that decision.

At a hearing on Thursday, Judge Ujang Abdullah said the president's legal team argued the Supreme Court had ruled that it was the president's prerogative to reject clemency, and this could not be challenged.

"We call on the judges to reject the challenge filed," he said, reading out the legal team's response to the appeal.

The case was adjourned until Wednesday, so that the Australians' lawyers can present evidence. The judge set out a schedule that aims to finish hearings on April 1 and deliver a ruling soon afterwards.

Chan and Sukumaran, in their early 30s, were transferred earlier this month to Nusakambangan prison island, off Java, where they will be put to death with the other convicts.

Indonesia originally said that the executions would take place in February but has delayed the move following an international outcry.

Australia, Indonesia's neighbour and a key ally, has mounted a sustained diplomatic campaign to stop their citizens being put to death, while France and Brazil have also heaped pressure on Jakarta.

Vice-President Jusuf Kalla confirmed that the executions would likely not take place for "several weeks" as authorities waited for legal appeals to finish.

The executions "should have been carried out weeks ago but some have filed a judicial review in the courts," he told ElShinta radio late Wednesday.

"The attorney general has delayed it to wait for the judicial reviews, so there won't be any legal problems afterwards."

The French convict, Serge Atlaoui, and the Filipina, Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, have also lodged appeals to their death sentences, which are currently working their way through the courts.