British Woman Sentenced to Death in Bali Drug Case

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JAKARTA, Indonesia -- An Indonesian court sentenced a 56-year-old British woman to death on Tuesday for smuggling $2.5 million worth of cocaine onto the island of Bali, a decision that went far beyond the prosecutors' recommendation of 15 years in prison.

In May, according to investigators, customs officials at Bali's airport discovered 8.4 pounds of cocaine hidden in the lining of the travel bag carried by the woman, Lindsay June Sandiford. A grandmother, she said she was forced to take the drugs into the country by a gang that had threatened to hurt one of her children.

Dismissing the prosecutors' call for a prison term, judges at the Denpasar District Court decided on death after finding that Ms. Sandiford, by ferrying in the drugs, had damaged the image of Bali as a tourism destination and weakened the government's drug prevention program. Television footage showed Ms. Sandiford sobbing. She is expected to appeal.

The British Embassy said, "Britain remains strongly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances."

Indonesia, known for its tough treatment of people who commit drug offenses and other crimes, has put five foreigners to death in drug cases since 1998. Forty foreigners are on death row for drug and other offenses.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has granted clemency to four prisoners on death row for narcotics crimes. Some analysts said the judges might have been motivated to issue the harshest possible sentence in the Sandiford case because the president's decision to reduce the sentences of 19 drug convicts in October stirred a public backlash.

"It's possible that could have influenced the thinking of the judges," David McRae, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Australia, said in an e-mail. "On the other hand, it's not unheard-of for sentences to exceed, even significantly exceed, the prosecutor's sentencing request."

Douglas Ramage, an analyst with Bower Group Asia, said the sentence was in keeping with Indonesian precedent.

"Foreigners and Indonesians alike have been regularly sentenced to the death penalty, so in a sense, Lindsay was not treated appreciably different than others who have come before Indonesian courts on drug trafficking charges," he said.

A Briton accused of serving as Ms. Sandiford's accomplice, Anthony Pounder, is expected to be sentenced on Wednesday.

Gerry Mullany contributed reporting from Hong Kong.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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