Jakarta eases on death penalty
Tom Allard, Amilia Rosa
April 13, 2011
PROSECUTORS asked that Australian alleged drug smuggler Michael Sacatides be sentenced to 16 years in prison yesterday, a sign Indonesian authorities are softening their attitudes to the death penalty.
Caught with 1.7 kilograms of methamphetamine in his luggage at Bali airport in October, Sacatides, a martial arts instructor from Sydney's west, was eligible to receive the death sentence under Indonesian law.
However, following an instruction from the attorney-general's office in Jakarta, prosecutors opted for a sentence request lighter than those prison terms given to the Australians in the Bali nine heroin syndicate and cannabis smuggler Schapelle Corby.
There was clearly careful deliberation in Jakarta before the sentence request was made. Yesterday's hearing was delayed twice as government lawyers pondered the decision.
The outcome is a positive development for Scott Rush, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the Bali nine members on death row who have their final legal appeals before the Supreme Court.
''It's encouraging,'' said Todung Mulya Lubis, a long-time campaigner against the death penalty and the lawyer for Chan and Sukumaran.
''It means that the government may think that the death penalty is not the solution … that it won't deter people from drug trafficking.''
Even so, the decision will likely provide little comfort for Sacatides, who vehemently maintains his innocence and remained expressionless during proceedings yesterday.
His defence is that the drugs were planted in his luggage by an associate who owed him money and knew he was travelling from Bangkok to Bali.
Like heroin and cannabis, methamphetamine - also known as ice - is considered a category 1 drug in Indonesia. The death penalty can apply for the importation of as little as five grams of the narcotic.
Prosecutor Gusti Putu Atmaja said Sacatides's lack of criminal record was taken into account.
''This request is per Jakarta's guidance,'' he added.
After a flurry of executions, Indonesia has not put anyone before a firing squad since the Bali bombers Amrozi, Mukhlas and Imam Samudra were killed 2½ years ago.
A Constitutional Court decision in 2008 upholding the legality of the death penalty in Indonesia also ruled it should be used sparingly, and that those sentenced to death should be given the opportunity to show repentance and have their sentences altered to life or less.
In the past year, Indonesia has also launched a campaign for clemency for more than 100 of its citizens on death row in Malaysia. With
AMILIA ROSA in Bali