News: Bali Nine shouldn’t be guilty – judge

THE Bali Nine are not guilty of exporting drugs because they were arrested before they boarded a plane, a former Indonesian Supreme Court judge has told the ringleaders’ final appeal.

Yahya Harahap today told the Denpasar District Court he believed that because the Australians’ eight kilograms of heroin never left Indonesia’s customs area, they should not have been found guilty under Indonesian law of drug exportation.

The Bali Nine couriers were arrested after going through immigration, but before boarding their flight to Australia.  “When someone wants to export drugs from a customs area, it must be determined where the customs area actually is,” Mr Harahap told the panel of three judges.  “Getting something through customs means a person has to have taken it out of the last post in the customs area.

Mr Harahap was giving evidence at the final appeal, known as a judicial review, of ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, who are on death row.

Mr Harahap said people who attempted but failed to carry out a crime, such as the Bali Nine, should not be punished as severely as those who actually completed a crime. Siswanto, the head of Bali’s Kerobokan Prison where the nine Australians are imprisoned, also testified today.  Siswanto said Chan, 26, and Sukumaran, 29, were well-behaved prisoners. He detailed their involvement in a range of rehabilitation courses.

He said he believed Sukumaran had turned over a new leaf and was unlikely to commit similar crimes in the future. “If he is executed, I would personally think it would be a shame,” Siswanto said. Chan had also displayed “clear and significant” change in recent years, Siswanto said. “He has been well behaved, participated in programs, and he never creates trouble.”

The pair’s appeal, which seeks to have their death penalties reduced to 20 years’ jail, will resume with further witnesses on November 5. If the appeal fails, they will be forced to seek clemency from Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who generally takes a dim view of drug smugglers.  Fellow Bali Nine death row inmate Scott Rush’s judicial review is currently being considered by Indonesia’s Supreme Court.

Five other members of the drug smuggling plot – Martin Stephens, Matthew Norman, Michael Czugaj, Si Yi Chen and Tan Duc Than Nguyen – are serving life sentences.  The final member of the drug ring, courier Renae Lawrence, is serving a 20-year sentence.  Another Australian man, 43-year-old Michael Sacatides, was arrested in Bali last week with an alleged 1.7kg of methamphetamine.  If he is eventually charged with drug importation, he could also face a possible death penalty.

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