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'A heroin overdose killed my brother. But I stand for mercy.'

Kaili Behan lost her brother to drugs 23 years ago. She writes here on why she stands for the mercy of accused drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran as they await execution in Bali. 

To all of those baying for blood today.  To all of those saying that they would cheerfully partake in aiming a loaded gun at two men tethered to a post on a deserted beach, and shoot at them until their blood runs into the sand, and their hearts explode in their chests; making their final living minutes (yes death is not usually instant in a firing squad situation) excruciating – YOU DON’T SPEAK FOR ME.

When you repeatedly try and bludgeon the internet by peddling barbaric and offensive opinions, purporting to be a voice for those who have lost loved ones due to drugs – YOU DON’T SPEAK FOR ME.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran currently await execution in Bali.

As it so happens 17 February marked the 23rd anniversary of my beautiful and vulnerable autistic brother Adam’s death – he died from a heroin overdose.

But still, I STAND FOR MERCY.

Read more:Did an Aussie radio station ‘contribute’ to the pending execution of Chan and Sukumaran?

Adam was at a party ostensibly to celebrate turning 22.  In reality the “party” was just another excuse for those who should have been caring for him to indulge their own vices and he was left alone.

My darling brother was not a drug user, in fact he was so anti-drugs that he actually called Crime Stoppers when he found a joint in my backpack when I was 13.  It was me that was the family rebel of sorts.

My brother was preyed upon by thoughtless dickheads who thought it would be funny to get the “retard” wasted.

I am sure they never meant to kill him, however among other things, once he was vulnerable and could not defend himself after having been fed a cocktail of prescription medications and alcohol, the perpetrators decided that as he was still lucid to administer him a shot of heroin mixed with Oxycodone – a “hot shot”.

The drugs reacted with his existing medication and began to slow his heart.

Kaili Behan and her brother Adam, who died 23 years ago.

My 6’4” big beautiful brother regained consciousness long enough to try and make his way home – a short walk up the beach in the dark of night.  Sadly, he collapsed and the incoming tide washed over him, sealing what was already inevitable.

Adam was found at dawn by a woman walking her dog.  My brother died on his 22nd birthday, 23 years ago.

Due to many factors, which as an 18-year-old girl, I found hard to fathom – and still do as a 41-year-old woman, the four perpetrators were never held accountable for their crime.

Read more:Both sides of politics agree on one thing: mercy for Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

I have spoken previously on the impact that my brother’s unnecessary death had on our family.  It was heartbreaking for me to deliver the news to my Dad.  It was exhausting and draining to watch my Mum slowly drink and drug herself to death from the guilt of leaving Adam alone that night.

Over the years, in my struggle to understand and come to terms with what happened to my beautiful brother, I have interacted intimately with many families who have lost a loved one through the use of drugs.

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We have shared our stories, consoled each other in grief and been towers of strength at times when the sadness threatens to overwhelm – birthdays, anniversaries … sometimes it can be just a song that evokes emotions that cause your chest to tighten and the tears to fall.

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Michael Chan (front L) and Helen Chan (front R), walk with Raji Sukumaran (back L) and Chintu Sukumaran. Image via Getty.

I have found that all of these families are profoundly compassionate, although we all at some deeper level hold some anger either towards those who caused (in my brother’s case) our loved one to die, or even at our loved one for making stupid choices.

It is certainly true that many of us are angry at a society which allows drug trafficking to flourish and drug traffickers at the highest level to grow fat and wealthy on the back of so much misery.

Of course we are angry at the traffickers down the line, like Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. We have every right to be.

Over the years, when the subject of the ‘Bali 9’ came up, it certainly brought some of that anger to the surface.

Read more:Julie Bishop on the Bali 9: “Myuran and Andrew deserve to live”.

However, like grief – anger can overwhelm you and certainly cloud your decision making abilities.

Tanya Plibersek spoke recently in Parliament about the issue of the looming execution of Andrew and Myuran, and related it to her own brother’s violent death in Port Moresby in 1997.

“I know that if I had been the one making the decision about the punishment of the person who did that crime, I couldn’t have thought of a punishment bad enough.”

She went on to say:

“That’s why we don’t make decisions about punishment on the basis of how we feel but on the basis of universal, consistently-applied rules.”

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Tanya Plibersek delivering powerful speech calling for mercy for Bali 9 duo.

As an evolved society we must hold fast to this premise.  We must continue to strive towards a rehabilitative and restorative criminal justice system that provides a mechanism for those willing to atone for their crimes and become better citizens.

In the case of Andrew and Myuran, whether or not you believe that the death penalty is warranted in certain cases, surely you cannot refute the fact that these men – despite being on death row for nearly a decade, in a prison system which provides for minimal rehabilitative opportunities, these young men have made it their mission to not only rehabilitate themselves, but through their work in Kerobokan Jail, which I have seen – they have become the benchmark for what rehabilitation should like worldwide.

Australian drug smuggler Myuran Sukumara
Australian drug smuggler Myuran Sukumaran. Image via Getty.

To those of you who are vociferous in your baying for blood, the blood of Andrew and Myuran, I wonder what you think is to be gained.  I have yet to see one valid argument, nor any statistically sound reason as to why putting these young men to death by firing squad is going to put a dent in the “drug scourge”.

However, the administrators of Kerobokan jail themselves have been outspoken in their praise of Andrew and Myuran as not only model prisoners, but for their work in reducing the drug taking within the prison itself.

Neither Andrew or Myuran or their families, or their growing army of supporters are asking for anything more than that they are allowed to serve their lives in prison in way that allows them to continue these good works.

The punishment is that they are to spend their lives in prison, away from their families, in a developing country where creature comforts such as space, working toilets and even basic safety are not the norm.  For me, that seems enough.

So, to all you people who think you speak “on behalf of the families” – YOU DON’T SPEAK FOR ME.

#IStandForMercy Mercy Campaign #KeepHopeAlive

Kaili Behan and her daughter at last nights Bali 9 vigil in Perth.
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