Lindsay June Sandiford of Britain has been sentenced to death by an Indonesian court after smuggling cocaine worth $2.5 million in her suitcase onto the resort island of Bali. Prosecutors had sought only a 15-year sentence, according to the Associated Press.
Sandiford, 56, declined to make a statement to reporters on her way out of the courthouse, where she had claimed that she was forced to take the drugs into the country by a gang that was threatening to hurt her children.
The UK woman’s lawyer told reporters that an appeal would follow, but the process could take several years.
Furthermore, a verdict is expected next Tuesday in the trial of Sandiford's alleged accomplice, Briton Julian Anthony Pounder.
Pounder is accused of being on the receiving end of the drugs in Bali, which is known to be home to a busy bar and nightclub scene where party drugs such as cocaine and Ecstasy are bought and sold between foreigners. Two other British citizens and an Indian citizen have already been convicted and sentenced to prison in connection with the bust, the AP reports.
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Martin Horwood, a member of Parliament representing Sandiford's Cheltenham constituency in western England, called the sentence a shock and said he would raise the case with Foreign Secretary William Hague.
"The days of the death penalty ought to be past. This is not the way that a country that now values democracy and human rights should really be behaving," Horwood told the BBC.
Harriet McCulloch of human rights charity Reprieve, which is assisting Sandiford, urged the British government to support her appeal.
"Lindsay has always maintained that she only agreed to carry the package to Bali after receiving threats against the lives of her family," McCulloch told reporters. "She is clearly not a drug kingpin -- she has no money to pay for a lawyer, for the travel costs of defense witnesses or even for essentials like food and water."
A panel of Denpasar District Court judges had supported their sentencing by suggesting Sandiford had damaged the image of Bali as a tourism destination and weakened the government's drug prevention program.
"We found no reason to lighten her sentence," Amser Simanjuntak, who headed the judicial panel, told reporters.
Prosecutors had been seeking a 15-year prison sentence for Sandiford, who was arrested in May when customs officers at Bali's airport discovered 3.8 kilograms (8.4 pounds) of cocaine in the lining of her luggage.
Indonesia has 114 prisoners on death row, according to a March 2012 study by Australia's Lowy Institute for International Policy. Five foreigners have been executed since 1998, all for drug crimes, according to the institute, as cited by the AP.