A British woman has been sentenced to death for drug smuggling on the Indonesian island of Bali.
Lindsay Sandiford, a 56-year-old grandmother from Teesside in the UK, has been found guilty under Indonesia’s famously strict drug laws.
According to Sky News, Sandiford was first arrested in May 2012 at Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport when customs officers found 3.8kg of cocaine with a market worth of $2.53 million (£1.6 million) in her baggage.
Sandiford claimed she was forced to smuggle drugs into Bali from Thailand by a criminal gang.
In December last year, prosecutors announced they would be recommending a 15 year sentence due in part to Sandiford’s age and also her participation in a police sting operation that led to four other suspects being arrested.
Those suspects included three Brits: Paul Beales, Julian Ponder, and Rachel Dougall. Beales and Dougall subsequently received much lighter sentences.
But that all changed when the verdict for Sandiford was delivered.
Even though prosecutors had not sought the death sentence, a judge panel led by Amser Simanjuntak declared Sandiford had damaged Bali’s tourist image and weakened the government’s drug annihilation program.
“We find Lindsay Sandiford convincingly and legally guilty of importing narcotics,” said Simanjuntak.
In her witness statement, Sandiford apologized to the Republic of Indonesia and its people and said she would “never have become involved in something like this but the lives my children were in danger and I felt I had to protect them.”
Sky News reports that Sandiford was in shock as her sentence was read out. Reportedly, she teared up briefly before regaining composure.
A spokeswoman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office 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.”
Reprieve, a charity which campaigns for prisoners human rights, said Sandiford was targeted by drug traffickers. Spokeswoman Harriet McCulloch said:
“Lindsay was targeted by drug traffickers who exploited her vulnerability and made threats against her children. Following her arrest she was arrested by the Indonesian police without a translator, legal representative or the assistance of the British Embassy for 10 days.”
Dr. Jennifer Fleetwood, an expert on the coercion of women in the international drug trade, said in a statement:
“There is evidence to suggest that a trafficker would seek someone who was vulnerable. Having reviewed extracts from Lindsay’s medical records I know that Lindsay has a history of mental health issues.”
Sandiford’s British parliamentary representative said he would discuss her sentence Foreign Secretary William Hague during Foreign Office Questions in the House of Commons back in the UK this morning, London Evening Standard notes.
Sandiford can still appeal to the High Court and the Supreme Court in Jakarta. There is also the possibility of clemency from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.