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article imageIndonesia sentences British woman to death for drug smuggling

By JohnThomas Didymus     Jan 22, 2013 in Crime
Bali - Lindsay Sandiford, a 56-year-old British grandmother, has been sentenced to death by firing squad in Bali, Indonesia for drug smuggling. Sandiford of Gloucestershire was arrested in May last year in Denpasar airport with $2.5 million worth of cocaine.
The Telegraph reports that the Denpasar District Court sentenced her after finding her guilty of violating the country's drug laws.
Officials found 10.16lb of cocaine worth $2.5 million in the lining of her suitcase during a routine check. After she agreed to cooperate with the police, she passed the consignment to an alleged accomplice Julian Ponder, a 43-year-old antiques dealer from Brighton, who has been tried and could also receive a death penalty this week.
Ponder was arrested with Rachel Dougall, 38, from Brighton. Dougall was sentenced to one year in prison failing to report a crime. The last member of the gang Paul Beales, was sentenced to four years for drug possession.
According to the Daily Mail, there was an audible gasp in the Bali courtroom when the judges announced a death penalty instead of the 15-year prison sentence that prosecutors had asked for.
She reportedly slumped back in shock as the sentence was pronounced, crying softly "No, no, no," under a beige-colored sarong she threw over her face. She declined to speak to reporters as she was led back to prison.
The death sentence comes as a surprise because the prosecutors had recommended a 15-year prison sentence on the grounds of her age and the fact that she had co-operated with investigators.
In her defense, Sandiford of Redcar in Teesside, said she was set up by the smuggling gang who forced her to carry the drugs by threatening her children.
The Guardian reports that in her witness statement, she said: "I would like to begin by apologizing to the Republic of Indonesia and the Indonesian people for my involvement. I would never have become involved in something like this but the lives of my children were in danger and I felt I had to protect them."
Her lawyers also read out a statement from her son: "I love my mother very much and have a very close relationship with her. I know that she would do anything to protect me. I cannot imagine what I would do if she was sentenced to death in relation to these charges."
The panel of judges at the Denpasar district court, passing the death sentence, said there were no mitigating circumstances in her case. The judges said her action had damaged Bali's image as a tourist destination and weakened Indonesia's anti-drug efforts. The judges said that she was at the center of the plot to smuggle drugs into Indonesia and that she did not show remorse for her action.
Amser Simanjuntak, who headed the panel of judges, said: "We found no reason to lighten her sentence."
Sandiford will appeal the sentence. She also has the opportunity of a plea of mercy to the president after she has exhausted all legal channels to escape being led into an orchard and executed by a ten-man firing squad.
British officials have reacted to the death sentence and expressed their opposition to it. According to The Guardian, a spokeswoman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), said: "We can confirm that a British national is facing the death penalty in Indonesia. We remain in close contact with that national and continue to provide consular assistance. The UK remains strongly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances."
There are about 114 prisoners on death row in Indonesia, with at least 40 of them being foreigners, most convicted of drug crimes, The Telegraph reports.
According to a report by Australia’s Lowy Institute, five foreign nationals have been executed for drug crimes in Indonesia since 1998. However, there have been no executions in the country since 2008 after 10 people were put to death.
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