Multi-award winning Australian painter Ben Quilty says Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan have transformed Indonesia's Kerobokan Prison into one of the world’s most progressive and effective rehabilitation centers.

Unfortunately, the duo are on death row having been sentenced to execution by firing squad for drug trafficking in 2006.

"You’re going to shoot men who have given so much to Indonesians?" the painter told The Anadolu Agency on Sunday, explaining that he is among a group of high-profile Australians who have got together to record a video asking for clemency for the two.

"Some of my favorite people are standing for mercy," he wrote on posting it to social media Saturday. "Myu and Andrew, we are walking this path with you."

The two Bali 9 ringleaders have had their pleas for clemency rejected by Indonesian President Joke Widodo and unless their legal team succeeds in an attempt to launch a judicial review of the entire legal process their clients will soon face the firing squad.

The outcome of Sukumaran’s and Chan’s execution would be that restorative justice experts such as Brian Steels, the director of the Asia Pacific Forum for Restorative Justice at South Australia’s Curtin University, and Professor Nyoman Sedana at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts, Denpasar would never get to understand what has made the rehabilitation program such a success.

Steels and Sedana are among a number of international academics and specialists who have expressed a keen desire to conduct research into the Kerobokan model and its application of restorative justice practices.

Devastated and appalled at the imminent fate of his two friends, Quilty admitted to AA that when he first met Sukumaran and Chan in 2012 he "naively didn’t consider this outcome."

"You become someone’s friend and that makes it easy to put inevitability out of your mind," he mused.

Quilty, who in 2011 won the Archibald Prize and later that year went to Afghanistan as the Official War Artist, has mentored Sukumaran for the past two years. He has made regular visits to Kerobokan Prison -- where the two men have been incarcerated since they were sentenced to death in 2006 in the plot to smuggle 8.3kg of heroin from Bali to Australia.

His friendship began through their shared love of art -- in 2013 Sukumaran entered a self-portrait for the Archibald Prize -- and the classes they run jointly in Kerobokan. But Quilty said a deep respect and "mateship" has also developed.

He told AA that he was prompted to speak out in support of Sukumaran when he read and heard negative criticism.

"There was a suggestion that he’s making this up for sympathy and to support his plea for clemency and I thought, that’s it, I’m going to tell everybody who this person really is."

Quilty talked of “a real reverence” among the other prisoners for Sukumaran. 

“It’s palpable,” he said. “They look up to him because he’s a very quiet role model of a leader." 

He drug tests all his students and Quilty says that "through careful negotiation, diplomacy and genuine respect from the guards he has built this extraordinary set of programs inside the prison" -- so much so, that prison guards regularly come in on their off days to participate in classes.

Since being incarcerated, Sukumaran has given proceeds from a sold-out exhibition in Melbourne to the head warden, who built an art gallery outside the prison to support the class. He also runs a computer room in the prison, a t-shirt printing room, a library and a jewelry making workshop for prisoners who wish to learn skills that will help them assimilate back into society.

"The most tragic thing when I went there last weekend was that no one turned up for the class," Quilty said.

"Usually there are about 40 people there. The room isn't big enough to hold everyone who wants to participate. This time only around eight people turned up."

He said that Sukumaran had told him that "everyone is staying away because nobody knows what to say to me now that my execution is imminent."

Anadolu Agency