22 Jan 2013

Indonesia death penalty Briton 'was coerced'

After a British women received the death penalty for drug trafficking in Indonesia, a spokeswoman for Reprieve tells Channel 4 News she believes the defendant was coerced.

Most people who have followed Lindsay Sandiford’s story will be surprised by the the severity of today’s judgement.

Ms Sandiford, a 56-year-old housewife and grandmother from Redcar, was found guilty this morning of drug smuggling on the tropical island of Bali. This is what the presiding judge, Amser Simanjutak had to say:

“Lindsay June Sandiford is proven guilty of committing criminal acts of importing narcotics… of more than five grams. The defendant is sentenced to death.”

The verdict seemed to stun those inside the courtroom. The prosecution had asked for a 15-year prison term – the sort of recommendation that judges in Indonesia usually accept. In this case, however, the judge decided to impose the maximum sentence: death by firing squad on an island off the coast of Bali.

Justice Simanjutak gave two reasons for his decision: Ms Sandiford had damaged Indonesia’s reputation overseas, and she’d failed to show remorse for what she had done.

What she’d done was try to move 10lbs of cocaine, hidden in the lining of her suitcase, through Bali’s main airport. She told police that she’d been coerced – forced to act as a drug mule after her sons had been threatened.

Ms Sandiford confessed and participated in a police sting operation that netted another four suspects (three of whom were British), but the Indonesia court was unwilling to reward her post-arrest behaviour with a reduced punishment.

We have just spoken to Harriet McCulloch, from the human rights organisation Reprieve, a legal action charity which has tried to help Ms Sandiford.

Their investigators thought the Teesside resident was vulnerable. With a history of mental illness, they say she would have presented herself as an ideal target to drug traffickers. Ms McCulloch spoke to her this morning:

“She was incredibly distressed and scared and concerned about what she would do in the future. She has no lawyer and needs to file an appeal in the next 14 days. She was very, very worried.”

The Reprieve investigator continued:

“We’re very disappointed with verdict. We thought she’d get 15 years or less and we have concerns about whether she got a fair trial. We have clear evidence that the defendant was coerced.”

Assuming that Ms Sandiford is able to find legal representation, she has two opportunities to appeal her conviction. If those actions fail, she will then have to seek clemency from the Indonesian prime minister.

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