June 4, 2012 Source : http://www.guardian.co.uk
One of the British women accused of cocaine smuggling in Bali remained sedated in hospital on Saturday as she continued to protest her innocence.
Rachel Dougall, 38, was becoming increasingly frantic as she faced the prospect of execution by firing squad. Speaking from behind bars before she was taken to Bali police hospital, she claimed she was the victim of a sting operation and protested her innocence.
“I am hallucinating. I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, I am losing my marbles,” she cried, repeatedly asking after Kitty, her six-year-old-daughter.
To Australian ears, the cries of Dougall and her co-accused and partner Julian Ponder that their drug arrest was a “set-up” sound familiar. Almost eight years ago, a young Queensland beautician, Schapelle Corby, pleaded the same defence to accusations that she had smuggled 4.1kg of cannabis into the tropical holiday island. Airport baggage handlers were supposed to have inserted the drugs into Corby’s boogie board bag without her knowledge.
Dougall and Ponder, 43, claim betrayal by their co-accused, mother-of-two Lindsay Sandiford, who they say set them up by delivering 4.8kg of cocaine disguised as a present for Kitty’s sixth birthday. The large box containing the cocaine was gift-wrapped in pink paper with “Enjoy sweet candy” printed on it.
Sandiford, 55, is claiming to have brought the drugs from Bangkok to Bali in her suitcase lining only because her two sons, Lewis, 23, and Elliot, 21, were threatened with death. A lawyer who unsuccessfully pitched for her business last week revealed that Sandiford believed Ponder to be the ringleader and “a big mafia guy”.
But if the sad history of Corby is any guide, these stories will be greeted with disbelief by Indonesian judges. If that is the case, the four Britons and one Indian national arrested over Bali’s biggest cocaine haul will face at best a long and miserable future in Kerobokan prison. At worst, they face a firing squad.
Bali is a ravished paradise. The surfers who first discovered its unblemished beaches and intriguing version of Hinduism in the 1960s have been followed by waves of tourists. Development came next, with the pleasure seekers close behind. Now any bule (white foreigner) who walks among the glitzy shops, bars and nightclubs of Kuta beach at night is offered sex as well as heroin, ecstasy, crystal meth and cannabis.
Cocaine, by contrast, remains scarce and highly priced. Bali’s customs chief I Made Wijaya valued the seized haul at £333 per gram, 10 times the price of gold. “Cocaine is very rare,” said one Bali local. “It’s unlikely you’ll find it on the street. It’s for well-funded foreigners and maybe some rich Indonesians.”
It’s hard to see why Kerobokan’s razor-wire-topped walls are not a more effective deterrent. More than 1,000 inmates, men and women, sleep in overcrowded cells in a prison designed for fewer than a third of that number. This year a man was beaten to death over the course of about eight hours in one of these cells. Nobody owned up to hearing his screams.
Gangs such as the notorious “Laskar Bali”, or “Bali Army”, dominate the yard. Drugs are freely traded and most things, including a bigger cell, can be bought for the right price. Many who arrived clean eventually find their way into drug addiction.
In April two successive nights of rioting forced guards to abandon the prison to the inmates, who burned and gutted its administration area and threatened to raze the rest of the building to the ground. Without visitors to bring in palatable food, prisoners go hungry and sometimes crazy.
A sentence of 20 years is standard for smuggling drugs. If Sandiford, from Cheltenham, Ponder and Dougall, both of Bali but formerly of Brighton, and the remaining co-accused, Paul Beales and Indian national Nanda Gophal, are jailed there, they will be among the oldest foreigners. But under Indonesia’s drug laws, a haul of this size of any “narkoba” makes the death penalty very likely.
Indonesia has 114 death row prisoners, 43 of them foreigners, though it has not executed anybody since 2008. On the day of death the prisoner is led to the place of execution and a target hung around their neck. They can choose whether to sit, stand or lie down, before a firing squad of 10 carefully vetted policemen pull their triggers.
Myuran Sukumaran is an Australian drug smuggler on death row in Kerobokan. He said recently: “It’s like having a gun pointing at the back of your head and you don’t know when it will go off.”
But that remains just a possibility for now in the Dougall case. For the next three months the co-accused will live in the cells beneath Denpasar’s police station, Polda Bali, as they are interrogated and police formulate the charges. In this process the police prize contrition, helpfulness, even friendliness, in a suspect. Ponder, Dougall and Beales have so far failed these tests with their defiance.
By contrast, her decision to inform on her alleged co-conspirators has already bought Sandiford a significantly more sympathetic hearing from the police and judges. Proving that you are addicted to drugs can also help.
If after the 90-day investigation is finished (or the cells get too crowded), the five will be moved to Kerobokan to await trial. There is no bail in Bali. Trials are conducted without juries and, compared to western countries, quickly. The “Bali Nine”, a group of young Australians, including Sukumaran, who were caught trying to export heroin out of Bali, were tried and sentenced less than a year after their arrests.
There is scope for three appeals from that initial decision, which drags the process out. But judges can increase as well as decrease sentences on appeal. At one stage a number of the Bali Nine appealed against their life sentences only to see them changed to death, before seeing them reduced again on further appeal. After the final appeal, to Indonesia’s Supreme Court, is exhausted, prisoners have one more chance, an application to the president for clemency.
Two weeks ago, Corby became one of the rare drug convicts to win this lottery. The price was her sanity. The pretty young woman, who denies she is a cannabis smuggler, is now mentally ill. She won her five-year reduction on humanitarian grounds and is eligible for release in September 2017.
The four middle-aged Britons in Bali’s police cells should perhaps start getting used to each other’s company.