Wed, Jan 25, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Bali prosecutors demand death for heroin suspect


Indonesian prosecutors sought the death penalty yesterday for an Australian accused of heroin trafficking on the island of Bali, in a case expected to test relations between the two countries.

It was the first demand for the death sentence in the trials of the so-called Bali Nine, who are accused of trying to smuggle more than 11kg of the drug from the resort island back to Australia.

The case has caused a furore in Australia, where the death penalty was abolished in 1985, with critics charging that police should not have tipped off their counterparts in Indonesia and risked sending the nine before a firing squad.

Lawyers, human rights advocates and ordinary Australians have said the nine should have been arrested when they arrived back home.

"We ask that the panel of judges hearing the case of defendant Myuran Sukumaran declare the defendant guilty of the crime of exporting first-class narcotics in an organized way, and without permit," prosecutor David Adji told the district court in Denpasar, Bali's main town.

He demanded that the panel of judges "hand down the death sentence to the defendant."

Under Indonesian law, the court is not bound to follow the recommendation by the prosecution team if Myuran Sukumaran, 24, is found guilty.

Adji said that there were no mitigating factors in favor of Sukumaran and that his crime ran against the Indonesian government's tough anti-drugs drive while also tarnishing the image of Indonesia and Bali.

They said that the defendant had "not been straightforward during his questioning and in court."

Sukumaran is accused of affixing packages containing heroin on at least three of the accused Bali Nine mules -- Renae Lawrence, the only woman in the group, Martin Stephens and Scott Rush.

He was allegedly discovered at a hotel on Bali's Kuta Beach with several mobile phones and 350 grams of heroin. He denied any knowledge of the drug and also denied any links to the drugs seized at the airport.

Prosecutors also yesterday asked for a life sentence for 20-year-old Michael Czugaj, saying that he had been cooperative and frank with investigators.

He was allegedly caught with more than 2kg of heroin strapped to his body at Bali's airport last April 17.

Czugaj's case will resume on Feb. 7 while Sukumaran's team will comment on the death penalty recommendation on Feb. 1.

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