Man jailed for cocaine smuggling

MICHAEL BACHELARD
Last updated 07:17 30/01/2013
Reuters

A court in Indonesia sentences Briton Julian Ponder to six years in jail and fines him NZ$120,000 on drug charges.

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An Indonesian court sentenced a Briton to six years in prison Tuesday for his role in a cocaine-smuggling case that led to a death sentence last week for a British grandmother.

Julian Anthony Ponder, 43, was convicted of receiving cocaine from 56-year-old Lindsay June Sandiford, who was found guilty of smuggling US$2.5 million worth of the drug in her suitcase onto the resort island of Bali. Sandiford was sentenced January 22 to death by firing squad.

Ponder seemed relieved after hearing the verdict, but declined to talk to reporters. 

''I think it’s light enough,'' said his lawyer, Ary Sunardi.

''We will suggest that he accept the sentence.''

Presiding Judge Gunawan Tri Budiono said Ponder was found guilty of possessing narcotics and also fined 1 billion rupiah (US$102,500). Twenty-three grams of cocaine were found in his villa when he was arrested.

Prosecutors had sought seven years for Ponder, who could have received a life term.

They had sought 15 years for Sandiford, but the court stunned the defendant and many people in her home country by sentencing her to death.

Sandiford filed an appeal request Monday. London-based human rights group Reprieve said it is suing the British government to attempt to force it to pay for Sandiford’s legal representation, arguing that officials have fallen down on their duty to keep her safe from inhuman conditions and ensure she has a fair trial.

It said Sandiford spent all of her money on the trial lawyer and cannot afford to pay for the appeal, which involves filing legal documents in the Indonesian language by February 12. 

In a statement, Reprieve's Harriet McCulloch said the costs of providing support for Sandiford would be negligible.

She said the Foreign Office ''‘must take immediate action and ensure that she does not lose the chance to appeal her death sentence''.

During the trial, Sandiford maintained that she was forced to transport the drugs into the country by a gang that was threatening to hurt her children.

She was arrested in May when 3.8kg of cocaine were discovered in the lining of her luggage at Bali’s airport. 

In London, British Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire told lawmakers last week that the government strongly opposes Sandiford’s sentence. 

Indonesia, like many Asian countries, is very strict on drug crimes. Most of the more than 40 foreigners on its death row were convicted of drug charges.

The country has not executed anyone since 2008, when 10 people were put to death.

Ponder's wife, Rachel Lisa Dougall, was earlier sentenced to one year in the case, while Indian national Nandagopal Akkineni received five years.

Another Briton, Paul Beales, was previously sentenced to four years.

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