“WE have forgotten the Bali Nine,” Townsville Bishop Tim Harris said, almost 15 years since a foiled drug smuggling operation first made international headlines.
Bishop Harris called on the Federal Government to bring the remaining Bali Nine to Australia to serve out the remainder of their sentence here.
“If they’re home here, there may be an opportunity to help these people, to help rehabilitate,” he said.
His plea has come as Queenslander Scott Rush, now 34, applied for clemency, hoping to reduce his 2006 life sentence to 20 years.
But this was not about getting off easy.
Bishop Harris said, after 14 years languishing in a foreign prison, bringing the Bali Nine home struck a balance between justice and mercy.
“If people are going to categorise it and say they’re guilty – and they certainly were (guilty) – well couldn’t the statement be made: they have done their time,” he said.
Bishop Harris said now was an opportunity for mercy to help supplement what justice by incarceration could never give.
The aim of their incarceration was rehabilitation and that would be best achieved in Australia, he said, where they could access family and friends as well as doctors and mental health professionals.
“The only ones left are the mules,” Bishop Harris said. “After so long in prison, I would have thought there was a feeling of no hope amongst them.
“I know they go through periods of deep depression.”
Bishop Harris was involved in the case since 2005.
At the time of their arrests, the families of Bali Nine drug mules Scott Rush and Michael Czugaj were part of Corinda-Graceville parish when Bishop Harris was parish priest.
Bishop Harris reached out to both families and became an advocate for the Rush family particularly, who invited him into their situation where he and the parish offered support where possible.
He even visited Rush and Czugaj at Kerobokan Prison in 2008.
There he saw the conditions of the prisons and said, frankly, it was not to the Australian standard.
Bringing them home meant they could access better facilities.
Bishop Harris said Scott Rush had publicly stated he could not wait to get out of prison to tell young people not to deal in drugs.
“And in a way if he can be an ambassador for that, then I’d be prepared to back him,” he said.
“Why aren’t governments thinking about the things I’m raising with you now? We’ve got to think outside the square.
“You just leave these people languishing in a foreign prison for another six or seven or eight years, what’s the point? Bring them home.”