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Old 03-17-2005, 10:01 PM
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Default Aus/Indonesia Drugs Trafficking

AUSTRALIA/INDONESIA (March 17) :

Australian facing death sentence in Bali was unknowing drug mule: lawyers


Lawyers for an Australian woman facing the death penalty in Indonesia for alleged drug smuggling said Thursday they had new evidence showing she was unknowingly used as a courier by traffickers trying to move drugs inside Australia.

But Australian police dismissed the evidence as "hearsay" that had little bearing on the case of the woman, Schapelle Corby.

Corby, a 27-year-old student beautician from Australia's Gold Coast resort area, is on trial in Bali for allegedly smuggling 4.1 kilograms (9 pounds) of cannabis into Indonesia.

She faces the death penalty if convicted.

The marijuana was found in Corby's boogie board bag when she arrived at Bali's Denpasar Airport last October but she has steadfastly denied knowing the drugs were in her luggage.

Corby's Australian lawyers said late Wednesday that they had obtained new evidence that she was unknowingly used as a courier by organised criminals trying to smuggle the cannabis from Brisbane to Sydney.

They said a man had come forward and signed an affidavit naming 3 baggage handlers he says planted the drugs in Corby's bag.

The drugs were supposed to be pulled from Corby's luggage when she passed through Sydney airport, but were missed, the lawyers quoted the unidentified man as saying.

The man has offered to testify at Corby's trial, they said.

But Mick Keelty, head of the Australian Federal Police, said that investigators were questioning the informer, who is held in prison, and that his testimony did not bear directly on Corby's case.

"It does mention Corby, but only in the sense that the prisoner made the conclusion that it was connected to the Corby case and overheard other prisoners talking about the Corby case," Keelty said.

"It's at best hearsay evidence."

Keelty criticised Corby's lawyers for going public with "spurious allegations" about a supposed drug smuggling gang involving airport baggage handlers, saying it would do the detained Australian "no good whatsoever".

Corby's Indonesian lawyer, Vasu Rasiah, rejected Keelty's comments and said the Australian government should be doing more to save his client.

"Mr Keelty can say say whatever he likes, the fact of the matter is there is a girl in jail who could be executed," he said at a news conference in Brisbane.

"They need to take this matter very, very seriously. At this stage, the Australian government has done nothing to ensure her safety," he said.

Rasiah said the Australian police had ignored repeated requests to investigate aspects of the case that occurred in Australia, despite willingness on the part of Indonesian judges to allow such evidence to be heard.

"The judges ... have gone an extra mile to open doors so that they can release the girl, but Australia has gone 10 miles behind to avoid doing that," Rasiah said. "I can't understand that."

(source: Agence France Presse)
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