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Comments by YACCS
Sunday, May 29, 2005

20 years too long


Schapelle Corby being taken into court


Let's talk, for a moment, as to why Schapelle Corby would get 20 years in an Indonesian jail.

Indonesia Marches Backward on Drug Policy

Indonesia's President Megawati Sukarnoputri, faced with rising heroin, methamphetamine, and ecstasy use, as well as rapidly increasing rates of HIV/AIDS infection among the island nation's 230 million inhabitants, has tightened her embrace of a repressive drug war approach to drug policy. In a blistering speech at a national seminar on drugs at the State Palace in Jakarta on October 29, Megawati scolded the country's drug war coordinating agency, the BKNN, for its failure to stop illicit drug use, demanded harsher sentences for drug offenders, recommended the death penalty for some, and suggested the Indonesian military, best known for its brutal efforts to suppress separatist populations in places like East Timor and Aceh province, could be asked to lend a hand against the new foe.

......................
Some anti-drug activists are also pushing to amend the country's 1997 laws No. 5/1997 banning psychotropic drugs, such as ecstasy and speed, and No. 22/1997, banning narcotics. Henry Yosodiningrat, chairman of the anti-drug foundation Granat, told the Jakarta Post that a committee reviewing those laws would call for the introduction of mandatory minimum sentences.

Indonesian drug laws provide for sentences of up 20 years for marijuana offenses and for the death penalty in narcotics trafficking or conspiracy cases. But according to local press accounts, most simple ecstasy, methamphetamine, or heroin possession cases result in prison terms ranging from one to five years. According to Agence France Press, last year five men had been sentenced to death for drug crimes, but none had been executed. Earlier this year, a 27-year-old Frenchman received a life sentence for smuggling 3.85 kilos of hashish into the country.


There are real social pressures in Indonesia to demand tough drug laws. One of which is staring our Australian friends in the face. Bashir the Bali bomber got two years because if he served more, it may lead to social upheaval. One of the best tools fundamentalists have to use is drug abuse. They point to that as a reason to make jihad. The Indonesians seem eager to import failed American policies as a last resort to deal with their drug problem.

Now that Frenchman smuggled in less dope than Corby is accused of doing, and got life. But Corby got the miminum 20 years for marijuana possession, when she could have been sentenced to death for smuggling. What the Australians are forgetting in their screetching but the Indonesians certainly aren't, is that they have a serious drug problem which hasn't been worthy of attention in the West. The fate of Orangutangs has gotten more air time. Now, it's the same kind of "how dare you treat us like your own people" argument heard when Westerners face Third World justice. And while it may impress Australians, it doesn't make much of an impression in Indonesia, and instead, may ensure her a lengthy jail sentence.

Since someone sent me to Wikipedia , let's quote from it:

Schapelle Corby said that the customs officer pointed at her bag and asked her brother if the bag belonged to him. Corby replied that it was hers. She opened her bag without being asked by the customs officer.


The customs officer, Gusti Nyoman Winata, gave a different version of the event. He said that he asked Corby to open her bag and she opened up an empty compartment of the bag. When he demanded a different compartment of the bag to be opened, she tried to prevent him from performing his duty. Corby's defence rejects these claims.


According to Professor Tim Lindsey, Director of the University of Melbourne's Asian Law Centre, the prosecution had a prima facie case against Corby, established merely by her possession of the narcotics, regardless of her knowledge. In a lecture given at Melbourne University (http://harangue.lecture.unimelb.edu.au/ilectures/ilectures.lasso?ut=707&id=19721), he said "Suffice to say that being caught with drugs on you, whether strapped to you or in a bag that is your property, is probably going to be sufficient in most instances for the prosecution to establish a prima facie case. The question then arises as to how that prima facie case is answered by a defence team."


The defense wanted to use this as evidence

John Patrick Ford, a remand prisoner in Port Phillip Prison, Australia, has given evidence in Corby's defence. Ford previously worked as a public servant for the (Australian) Child Support Agency (CSA), a department of the Australian Taxation Office, before his conviction.


Ford stated that he overheard a conversation within a prison between two men and alleges one of the men planted the marijuana in Corby's boogie board bag in Brisbane with the intent of having another person remove it in Sydney. Ford went on to state that a simple mixup resulted in the marijuana not being removed and subsequently being transported to Indonesia, all without Corby's knowledge. Once in Indonesia the marijuana was quickly located by Indonesian customs officials.


Ford stated that the drugs were owned by Ron Vigenser, who had been a prisoner at the same jail as Ford (but was recently released) but has refused to name the man who he states planted the drugs for fear that he, and possibly Corby, would be killed if he did so. Vigenser has strenuously denied any connection with the drugs in the Australian media and has reportedly given a statement to the Australian Federal Police.


...............

The AFP commisioner Mick Keelty caused controversy on May 11 when he stated that a key aspect of her defence (that the drugs were planted in her bag by baggage handlers) was not supported by the available intelligence. [7]

.............

The fact that Corby is young, white, female and attractive has led to allegations that she is receiving sympathy and support from the media, government and public that is not afforded to other Australians imprisoned around the world. There are also allegations that the attention and sympathy especially from the Australian public and media may be related to xenophobic sentiment and a unfair mistrust of Asian legal systems. Specifically there is a perception among some legal experts that some of the negative perceptions of the case may be due to a misconception of the inquisitorial system used in Indonesia which originated from the Dutch colonial system, as opposed to the adversarial system used in Australia especially related to the incorrect perception that Corby was not persumed innocent [8] (http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2005/s1350655.htm). There are also allegations of an strong bias by the Australia media who frequently mention the specifics of the Corby defence but fail to mention important aspects of the prosecution case such as the allegation she initially claimed the drugs were hers.


This level of interest, however, can also be partly explained by what was often considered to be a weak prosecution case against Corby and that perceived inefficiences in the handling of evidence - in particular the inability to test for fingerprints on the bag containing the marijuana - were evidence of systemic failures of the Indonesian legal system and that a fair trial had not been afforded to Corby.


However there is also the dissenting opinion that although there may have been some shortcomings in the prosecution case, this does not overide what they consider to be an overwhelming strong prosecution case combined with a weak defence relying primarily on hearsay and non specific evidence [9]



The problem with Corby's case is that she has no real defense. Jailhouse conspiracies of hearsay, claims of crooked baggage smugglers. None of this would be allowed in a US court as a defense. It would be tossed. Sure, the forensics might be better, but the fact is that she held the dope in her possession when questioned by customs. How it got there is not the prosecution's concern. She has to have a reasonable defense for the drugs in her possession at the time of her arrest. And Ford's refusal to name the guilty party for fear of death is ludicrous. If he had the evidence, he'd be placed in witness protection, and given Corby's new fame, it is unlikely anyone would attempt to kill her.

For all the screaching about how I didn't understand the case, no one actually mentioned her pathetic defense claims. The lawyers here can tell you what would happen to a US defendant with such a case. They would be offered a plea bargain for jailtime. I think if she had landed at LAX with the same story, she would be headed for a few years in jail.

Testing for fingerprints is seriously overrated and would be deemed unnecessary in the US as well. Why? Because she was caught with dope in her property. Property she admitted was hers. The defense might test the bags, but that could hurt, not help her case. Why? Because the issue is now in doubt. Remove the doubt and she's done for. How people thought being caught with dope is a weak prosecution case is beyond me. I was told as a child not to deliver packages for strangers, because I was going to be the one going to jail if it had dope in it.

There is a A$1m offer for any information on her case. So I'm supposed to think drug dealers wouldn't rat each other out with that kind of money on the table? OK.

What I think happened is that she got a case of the stupids and thought she could make a quick buck or was talked into it. Because she was a "good girl" she underestimated the risks. She may have been told customs was lax.

Now, I don't think this is fair. I don't think that she should serve 20 years for being stupid. And as this article points out, only the small fry do time in Indonesia

Street justice

In 1997 the Indonesian drug laws were revised to include a death penalty. The law has never yet been used on well connected, big time dealers. Rather, unwitting pawns duped into trafficking, those without ‘backing’ from above or money with which to buy their freedom, can receive a death sentence.



Understanding drug problems in Indonesia is complicated by the well-known ‘secret’ that drug dealing is tied to politics and the security forces. Many police and soldiers test positive for drugs in their urine (usually Ecstasy, amphetamines or low grade heroin). High ranking officers have been caught red-handed smoking SS or putauw with noted dealers. I have frequently been offered high quality drugs by court officials and police who admit with no embarrassment that they use and sell confiscated drugs. This ‘official’ involvement reaches right into the Suharto family palace. The former president’s grandson, Ari, and his wife, Maya, have been accused of trafficking and of using ecstasy and SS. Assorted generals and other leaders are widely recognised as providing ‘backing’ for drug traffickers and distributors. It is no surprise that major dealers rarely get more than one year in prison — if any time at all.


With official channels weak and ineffective, the Indonesian masses take the street battle against drugs into their own hands. After all, it’s their own children and safety at stake. Beginning in 1999, the public learned that drug addiction did not just happen to rich kids. Once reports hit the press that elementary school children were being lured to take ‘courage-building pills’ and that sentences for convicted dealers were so light, a major backlash began. In 2000, the Minister for Youth and Sport said that drug users may be dealt with through street justice, thus giving official sanction to actions outside of the law. By 2001, at crossroads and entrances to all communities, residents hung banners with slogans such as ‘Destroy drug users and dealers’, ‘Drugs: Indonesia’s number one enemy’, ‘Drug-Free Community’, and ‘Death to all Drug Users and Dealers’. In 2002, a crowd of 2,000 Jakartans took an oath ‘to wage war against the distribution and abuse of drugs’.


I think two things: one, Corby is more likely a stupid woman who got greedy and is being punished vastly out of proportion for the crime she has been convicted of.

Two: I think the Australian campaign for her release has done more harm than good. She was caught with dope in her property. People go to jail for that. Australians are screaming about how unfair her trial was, and it may well not have been fair, but to be honest, a US trial would have ended the same way, with a conviction. Without a way to reasonably blame someone for the drugs in property she owned, I can't see how she walks away in the US, forget Indonesia. Conspiracies without facts is not a reasonable explaination. The case is simple: a woman is stopped with drugs on her property. Her defense is that they were planted. Yet, the defense offers no firm evidence of this conspiracy, despite a national upheaval and $1m on the table.

But in all the uproar, no one explained to the Australians how tricky a political issue drugs are in Indonesia. Indonesia is racked with a drug crisis it cannot solve and is emulating the worst of the US policies. There is evidence of widespread corruption, yet a need for the government to be doing something. So they can make Schapelle Corby a big, fat example. They have all the drug dealers they need. They don't need young Westerners on the make to cut into their business and spread drugs even more.

No one ever commits a crime thinking they will be caught and punished. But what exactly does the Australian public want? A lower sentence? Outright release?

What is the Indonesian government, as corrupt as it is, supposed to do when someone is caught smuggling red handed and then offers hearsay evidence as a defense. Even
the Australian police cannot tie the drug ring to Corby's property and they clearly had every incentive to do so.

Make no mistake, I think 20 years is horrible for such a silly, ill-thought out mistake. Two would be fine. But her defense isn't credible. She has no proof her story is anything more than just that. In that case, what is the Indonesian government supposed to do? Take her word for it?

Oh yeah, here are the other Australians awaiting trial and disposition of sentence:

* Andrew Chan, arrested April 17, 2005 and awaiting trial
* Si Yi Chen, arrested April 17, 2005 and awaiting trial
* Schapelle Corby - sentenced on May 27 2005 to 20 years imprisonment for drug trafficking of 4.1kg of cannabis
* Chris Currell, 37 on March 21 2005 sentenced to 6 months imprisonment for planning to export 70,000+ pseudo-ephedrine pills to Australia
* Michael Czugaj, arrested April 17, 2005 and awaiting trial
* Tach Duc, arrested April 17, 2005 and awaiting trial
* Massimo Mancini, arrested December 2004 for possession of 1g heroin
* Thanh Nguyen, arrested April 17, 2005 and awaiting trial
* Matthew Norman, arrested April 17, 2005 and awaiting trial
* Chris Packer, arrested for failing to declare firearms, released
* Scott Rush, arrested April 17, 2005 and awaiting trial
* Andrew Say, arrested, for possession of 60g of marijuana
* Martin Stephens, arrested April 17, 2005 and awaiting trial
* Myuran Sukumaran, arrested April 17, 2005 and awaiting trial
* Chris Wardill, 27, arrested December 2004 for possession of four ecstasy pills


posted by Steve @ 2:40:00 AM

2:40:00 AM

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