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British woman faces death for drug smuggling in Indonesia

January 22, 2013|By Emily Alpert
  • Lindsay Sandiford, right, listens to an interpreter during her sentencing at a district court in Bali, Indonesia, on Tuesday.
Lindsay Sandiford, right, listens to an interpreter during her sentencing… (Made Nagi / European Pressphoto…)

A British woman who tried to smuggle several pounds of cocaine into Bali was sentenced Tuesday to death, a far more severe punishment than the 15 years behind bars sought by Indonesian prosecutors. 

The court found there were  "no mitigating circumstances" to allow leniency for Lindsay Sandiford, Agence France-Presse reported. Her actions could tarnish Bali as a tourist destination, the judges reportedly said.

Sandiford, 56, is the second British citizen in recent months to receive a death sentence for drug crimes in Indonesia. Gareth Cashmore was sentenced last year to face the firing squad and is awaiting execution, according to Amnesty International.

Capital punishment for drug crimes has put Indonesia at odds with nations such as Britain and Australia that have citizens on Indonesia's death row.

Sandiford is expected to face a firing squad, the usual method of execution in Indonesia. Though the death penalty is always “inhuman punishment,” shooting Sandiford  “is cruel in the extreme,” said Amnesty International UK Campaigns Director Tim Hancock.

News of the sentence also troubled the British Foreign Office, which opposes all executions; it said it had raised Sandiford'scase on a recent visit to Indonesia. Other British nationals tied to the case have received sentences of four years and one year, for lesser offenses.

Sandiford tried to smuggle cocaine into Bali in the lining of her luggage and was caught by customs officials, the Associated Press reported. She said she agreed to carry the suitcase after a criminal gang threatened to hurt her family. Her defenders say she also suffered a history of mental health issues that made her especially vulnerable to coercion.

“She is clearly not a drug kingpin – she has no money to pay for a lawyer, for the travel costs of defense witnesses or even for essentials like food and water,” said Harriet McCulloch, an investigator with Reprieve, a London-based legal action group that has championed Sandiford's case.

Sandiford's attorney told the Jakarta Globe that an appeal was likely. It was unclear from news reports Tuesday when she was to be executed.

Indonesia has executed 22 people in the last 15 years, including five foreigners, all of whom were convicted of drug crimes, according to a report issued last year by the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney. The last time was in 2008, when two Nigerian men were killed by firing squad.

Fifteen other countries in the Asia-Pacific region also impose the death penalty for drug offenses, against international standards, Amnesty International said. Worldwide, the countries believed to carry out the death penalty for drug crimes most often include China, Iran, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Malaysia, according to Harm Reduction International. Other countries issue death sentences for such crimes but rarely carry them out.

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