January 23, 2006

Life term sought for Australian in Bali drugs case

DENPASAR, Indonesia (Reuters) - Indonesian prosecutors on
Monday sought life in jail for a young Australian charged with
heroin trafficking, the first sentencing demand against nine
Australians on trial in the high-profile case.

State prosecutor Made Sudarmawan said he was not demanding
the death penalty for Brisbane native Scott Rush, 20, who is
accused of being a courier of an illegal drug.

The "Bali Nine," as Australian media quickly dubbed them,
were arrested on the resort island of Bali last April and
accused of trying to smuggle more than 8.2 kg (18 lb) of heroin
from Indonesia to their home country.

The charges against all nine carry a maximum penalty of
death by firing squad.

"Scott Anthony Rush has been proven legally and
convincingly guilty of narcotic crimes by unlawfully exporting
class one narcotics in an organized way. Mitigating factors are
his young age and good behavior during trial sessions,"
Sudarmawan said.

"We ask the defendant ... be punished with the life

Rush showed no reaction when the demand was read out in the
Denpasar district court.

Under Indonesian law, the demand is non-binding for judges
but is seen as a strong recommendation.

Rush was caught at Bali's main airport with packages of
heroin strapped to his body.

Any death penalties handed down in the trials could affect
Indonesia's ties with Australia, which has abolished the death
penalty from its legal system.

Indonesian police have vowed to crack down on illegal drugs
on Bali, which they say has become a hub for international
narcotics distribution.

Courts here have delivered a string of tough sentences
against foreigners over drugs charges. They include Australian
woman Schapelle Corby, sentenced to 20 years in jail last May
after being found guilty of smuggling marijuana.