22 January, 2013

British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford sentenced to death for drug trafficking

British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford sentenced to death for drug trafficking

Linsday Sandiford, a 56-year-old British grandmother, has been sentenced to death by firing squad in Indonesia for drug trafficking.

British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford sentenced to death for drug trafficking
Lindsay Sandiford was sentenced after being found guilty of violating the country's strict drug laws by the Denpasar District Court Photo: EPA

Sandiford, from Redcar in Teesside, has insisted she was set up and was forced by a gang to smuggle drugs to Bali to protect her children.

However, a court in Bali found she was at the centre of an alleged drug ring involving three other Britons and did not appear to have shown remorse.

On hearing the sentence, Sandiford wept and declined to comment as she was led back to prison, covering her face with a scarf.

Prisoners sentenced to death in Indonesia are executed by a 10 man firing squad.

Though the sentence can be overturned on appeal, prisoners will often spend years waiting for their fate to be decided. A report by Australia's Lowy Institute last year said five foreign nationals have been executed in Indonesia since 1998, all for drug crimes.

She was arrested last May upon arrival from Bangkok at Bali's Denpasar airport after customs officials carried out a routine check and found 10.6lb of cocaine worth $2.5 million in the lining of her suitcase.

Her alleged accomplice, Julian Ponder, allegedly received cocaine from her after she agreed to cooperate with police.

Ponder, 43, an antiques dealer from Brighton, has been tried for drug possession and could also receive a death penalty when he is sentenced later this week.

He was arrested with his partner, Rachel Dougall, who was last year jailed for one year for failing to report a crime. The fourth member of the ring, Paul Beales, was sentenced to four years for possession of drugs.

The prosecutors in Sandiford's case had recommended a 15-year prison sentence and had not sought the death penalty.

However, a panel of judges at the Denpasar district court ruled that there were no mitigating circumstances and that she had damaged Bali's image as a tourist destination and weakened Indonesia's tough anti-drug's programme. Bali is a popular destination for foreign nationals and has a bustling night club scene, where drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy are commonly available.

"We found no reason to lighten her sentence," said Amser Simanjuntak, who headed the judicial panel.

Collect photographs of Linsday Sandiford

British officials were quick to express their opposition to Indonesia's death penalty. About 40 foreign nationals are on death row in Indonesia.

"We can confirm that a British national is facing the death penalty in Indonesia," said a spokeswoman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. "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."

In her witness statement, Sandiford said: "I would like to begin by apologising 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."

During the trial, Sandiford's lawyer read out a statement from her son, which said: "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."

Sandiford has been assisted by the British human rights group Reprieve, which claimed she was "targeted by drug traffickers who exploited her vulnerability and made threats against her children".

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