British Grandmother Loses Bali Death Sentence Appeal In Drug Smuggling Case

British grandmother Linda Sandiford has lost her appeal against a death sentence for drug trafficking in Bali, court officials confirmed today.

The court upheld the sentence handed down to the 56-year-old in January.

Sandiford, from Teesside, in the UK, was been found guilty under Indonesia’s notoriously strict drug laws. The 56-year-old maintains that she was coerced into smuggling 3.8kg (9.6lb) of cocaine by a criminal gang.

Back in May 2012, she was arrested after a flight from Thailand at Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport when customs officers found cocaine in her baggage and accused her being at the center of a drugs ring.

After her earlier conviction, prosecutors said they would be recommending a 15 year sentence due in part to Sandiford’s age and her participation in a police sting operation that later 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.

However, at trial, even though prosecutors had not sought it, judges declared Sandiford had damaged Bali’s tourist image and weakened the government’s drug annihilation program and handed down the death sentence.

The appeal judges ruled the original decision was “accurate and correct,” with the court spokesman adding that Sandiford would be informed of the decision as soon as possible.

The high court gave the Brit 14 days to appeal to the Supreme Court starting from the day she is informed of the verdict, which is today.

If the Supreme Court rejects Sandiford’s appeal, she can seek a judicial review of the decision from the same court. From there, however, only the country’s president can grant her a reprieve.

The case has been championed by British human rights charity Reprieve which say Sandiford was “targeted by drug traffickers who exploited her vulnerability and made threats against her children.”

The charity said it is not game over for Sandiford but added that turnarounds in death sentences is extremely slow. Many death row drug smugglers languish in jails for up to 10 years.

Such a turnaround can happen though. The BBC’s Karishma Vaswani reports that even despite Indonesia’s strict drug laws, death by firing squad is rarely carried out. It should be noted that last month authorities in Indonesia carried out their first execution in more than four years of a Malawi national convicted of drugs smuggling.

Currently, there are 71 prisoners convicted of drug charges on death row in Indonesia and 41 of them are foreigners.

Following Sandiford’s appeal loss, the British embassy in the Indonesian capital issued a statement, saying:

“We are disappointed to hear Lindsay Sandiford’s appeal has been refused by the High Court in Bali. The UK strongly opposes the death penalty and has repeatedly made representations to the Indonesian government on this matter. We will continue to provide consular assistance to her at this difficult time.”

A complication in Sandiford’s fight is her failure to get the British government to fund a lawyer for her appeal. UK Foreign Office policy does not provide legal representation to British nationals overseas.

The decision was backed by judges and has left the grandmother, whose family are believed to have no funds, solely reliant on Reprieve’s donation based help.