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Last Australians among 'Bali Nine' Receive Life Sentences for Heroin Trafficking in Indonesia

  • Nancy-Amelia Collins

Three more young Australians have been sentenced to life in prison on the Indonesian island of Bali for drug trafficking. They were the last of a group of nine who received sentences this week ranging from life in prison to death by firing squad from a Balinese court determined to show that Indonesia will not compromise on narcotics.

Tan Duc Thanh Ngyuen, Si Yi Chen and Matthew Norman were all sentenced to life in prison by an Indonesian court Wednesday. They range in age from 19 to 23.

They were the last of the so-called "Bali Nine" - eight young Australian men and one woman caught attempting to smuggle heroin from Bali to their home country - to be convicted and sentenced this week.

Chief Judge Istiningsih Rahayu, speaking in court Wednesday, says the defendants had been proven "legally and convincingly guilty of a narcotics crime in the illegal export of class-one drugs."

On Monday the first four of the nine, including the lone woman, were sentenced to life in prison. They were caught at Bali's airport with packages of heroin strapped to their bodies. On Tuesday, the court sentenced the groups' two masterminds to death by firing squad. In all, the group was caught with more than eight kilograms of heroin.

All nine have the right to appeal or seek a presidential pardon, but the process can take years, and admission of guilt is required for a pardon. At least two of the nine admitted their guilt after being caught.

The Indonesian government has vowed to crack down on drug smuggling, especially on Bali, a long-time holiday destination for Australians, where drug usage is high.

Australia does not have the death penalty, and on Tuesday, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said his country would plead for clemency for the two men sentenced to death. But Mr. Howard said he had expected the sentences, given the weight of evidence against the group.

Mr. Howard also said he found it hard to understand how the nine Australians could risk drug trafficking, when the Indonesian government has openly advertised severe consequences for decades.

There were two other high-profile drug cases in Indonesia involving Australians in the past year.

In a case that had many Australians up in arms for months, Schapelle Corby, a beautician, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for smuggling marijuana into Bali. Michelle Leslie, a model, was sentenced to three months in prison by a Bali court for using drugs while on the island. She has already returned to Australia.

Yet another young Australian, Nguyen Tuong Van, was executed in Singapore in December after he was found guilty of heroin smuggling there.

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