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Indonesia Courts Give Life Sentences to Australian Drug Smugglers

Two Australian drug smugglers have been sentenced to life in prison after a court on the Indonesian island of Bali found them guilty of trying to smuggle heroin out of the country. They are the first of the so-called "Bali nine" - eight men and a woman who have been accused of trying to transport at least eight kilograms of heroin: prosecutors have asked for the death penalty for two others in the group.

Renae Lawrence and Scott Rush had packages of heroin strapped to their bodies when Indonesian officers stopped them as they tried to board a flight back home to Australia last April.

They did not deny they were trying to move the heroin, but said they were forced to do so by gang members who threatened to kill their families if they did not.

Judge Putu Widnya tells Lawrence, a 28-year-old former forklift driver, that they found no evidence to back her story.

Although prosecutors had only asked for 20 years, the court exercised its right to impose a higher penalty, and gave her a life sentence.

The other seven verdicts are expected in the next two days. The prosecutors have asked for death sentences for the two alleged masterminds of the plot.

Indonesia is in the middle of a crackdown on illegal drugs, and has made a point of imposing harsh sentences on those found guilty of trafficking narcotics.

There have been a number of highly publicized cases of young Australians caught in the crackdown over the past year. A harsh sentence imposed on one woman, who said the drugs were placed in her luggage without her knowledge, created considerable anger in Australia toward Indonesia.

Death sentences in Indonesia are carried out by firing squads. Two foreign drug smugglers, a Thai woman and an Indian man, have been executed in the last 18 months.