A British woman facing the death penalty in Indonesia on charges of smuggling cocaine lost on Thursday a high court bid challenging the UK government’s refusal to retain a lawyer for an appeal against her sentence.
Lindsay Sandiford, 56, was sentenced Jan. 22 after she was found guilty of smuggling 4.8 kg (10.6 lb) of cocaine to the tourist-laden tropical island of Bali.
Her bid was backed by Reprieve, a UK-based human rights charity dedicated to assisting incarcerated people worldwide, which wanted the judges to rule against the British Foreign Office's stance that the government could not fund legal representation for British nationals abroad, the BBC reported.
Elizabeth Gloster and Nicola Davies, justices of the British High Court, ruled that while the court understood “the deep concerns of Mrs. Sandiford and her family about Mrs. Sandiford's predicament” the case should be dismissed. The court said reasons for its decision would be annouced Monday.
Sandiford’s counsel, Aidan O'Neill, told the court that her client was currently without legal assistance and that her family had exhausted all of their available resources. The court was told that a lawyer had been found in Indonesia who was willing to work pro bono but required "operational costs" estimated to be about £2,500 ($3,968).
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O'Neill said the government's stance stood in violation of its obligation to the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to protect one of its citizen’s right to life.
A spokeswoman for the British Foreign Office had earlier said that the UK remained “strongly opposed” to death penalty in all circumstances.
"We remain in close contact with that national and continue to provide consular assistance,” the Foreign Office said following Sandiford’s sentencing.
The rights group said the Foreign Office's decision not to approach Indonesia on the issue was “deeply disappointing.”
"Reprieve and Lindsay's family will now have to look for alternative sources of funding to ensure that Lindsay gets the assistance she so desperately needs," Reprieve investigator Harriet McCulloch was quoted as saying by the BBC.
Sandiford was arrested at Bali's Ngurah Rai Airport in May after she was found carrying cocaine in the lining of her suitcase.
During the trial, the grandmother said she had committed the crime because Julian Anthony Ponder, a 43-year-old British national who was recently sentenced to six years in Indonesian prison for his involement in the case, threatened to kill her son.
Sandiford said that Ponder made the threat via phone in March. She added that she was ordered to go to Bangkok May 12 to smuggle the cocaine to Bali.
The harsh sentence came as a surprise because the prosecution had recommended 15 years in jail, saying Sandiford admitted her crime and that she had no prior convictions. According to a BBC report from Bali: “There was an audible gasp of surprise in the courtroom when the verdict was delivered.”
Although Indonesia's strict smuggling laws stipulate the death penalty, “few executions are carried out,” according to a report in the South China Morning Post.