Australian officials are urging that authorities in Bali, Indonesia release a 14-year-old Australian schoolboy who has been arrested for drugs possession and could face up to six in years in prison.
The boy, whose identity cannot be revealed, reportedly was arrested Tuesday after he purchased 6.9 grams (less than a quarter of an ounce) of marijuana on the island resort while on holiday with his parents. The dealers were allegedly plainclothes police officers setting up a sting operation on Kuta Beach on the southern coast of the famed island.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the boy, who hails from Morrisset Park, a town north of Sydney, said he bought the drugs because he felt sorry for the ‘dealer’ who claimed he had not eaten all day.
However, due to Indonesia’s strict narcotics laws, marijuana is regarded as dangerous as heroin and cocaine, possession of which can lead to stiff penalties. If the boy were above the age of 18, he might be facing up to twelve years in jail.
Under Indonesian laws, the boy can be held in detention without charges for up to thirty days.
According to Australian media, the boy is the youngest Australian to be arrested under Indonesia's drug laws. Moreover, drug smugglers have often been executed by firing squad.
The British newspaper Daily Telegraph that the boy, who is under custody at Denpasar police headquarters, is undergoing blood and urine tests and reportedly depressed, upset and refusing food.
Meanwhile, Australia’s foreign minister vowed he would stop at nothing to secure the boy’s release.
Kevin Rudd told local radio that he will do everything possible to get this little bloke home. But he warned it could take some time, noting there are real challenges that we face here, and I think we've all got to be patient.
According to Associated Press, Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard characterized the boy’s arrest and detention as an incredibly distressing circumstance.
In response, a spokesman for Indonesia's Foreign Ministry said the case is still under investigation, but warned that everybody should know by now that illegal drugs in Indonesia will bring very severe penalties.
The boy’s Indonesia attorney, Mohammed Rifan, told Australian media that police violated Indonesian procedural rules because they interviewed him in the absence of his parents.
Julian McMahon, a Melbourne lawyer told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio, that the boy is unlikely to suffer a lengthy prison term.
He would get nothing like that. He would get some months, you would expect, if he had to go to jail at all, he said.
According to the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties, four Australians have been executed in Malaysia and Singapore in the last 25 years, while three others are facing the death penalty (including one in Indonesia) – not necessarily for drug charges.
Perhaps the most high-profile Australian who got tangled up in Indonesia’s draconian drug laws was Schappelle Corby, who is serving 20 years in prison for smuggling 4 kilograns of cannabis in Bali.