Australia wants boy drug suspect in Bali back home

AP News
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Posted: Oct 07, 2011 7:08 AM
Australia wants boy drug suspect in Bali back home

Australia's foreign minister said Friday that he will do everything possible to secure the return of a 14-year-old boy arrested for alleged marijuana possession while on a family vacation in Indonesia.

The boy, who cannot be named as a child criminal suspect under Indonesian law, has been held at Denpasar police headquarters on the tourist island of Bali since he was arrested Tuesday after allegedly buying a small quantity of marijuana from a man on Kuta Beach.

His lawyer, Muhammad Rifan, said the boy faces a maximum sentence of six years if convicted of possessing a quarter of an ounce (7 grams) of marijuana, which under Indonesian law is treated the same as heroin or cocaine.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd told radio station 3AW that his job was to "do everything possible to get this little bloke home." However, he noted it could take some time, saying "there are real challenges that we face here, and I think we've all got to be patient."

Prime Minister Julia Gillard described the boy's incarceration as "an incredibly distressing circumstance." She said the boy was being held apart from other prisoners.

Indonesia's Foreign Ministry spokesman Michael Tene said that while the case was still under investigation, "everybody should know by now that illegal drugs in Indonesia will bring very severe penalties."

The boy, from Morrisset Park, north of Sydney, was on vacation with his parents when he was arrested. The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported Friday that the boy told police he bought the marijuana because he felt sorry for the alleged dealer, who said he had not eaten for a day.

Rudd said the boy's parents had taken turns spending Thursday night with their son at the police jail.

Lawyer Rifan said the boy was angry, crying and depressed in custody. He can be held for 30 days without charge.

Rifan said the arresting police officers broke Indonesian rules for dealing with child suspects by not allowing the boy's parents to be present during his interview. He said that a senior narcotic law enforcement officer had later assured him that the boy's legal rights would be respected.

Julian McMahon, a Melbourne lawyer representing two Australians on death row in Bali for smuggling heroin in 2005, said the boy need not fear the maximum six-year sentence.

"He would get nothing like that. He would get some months, you would expect, if he had to go to jail at all," he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.

Australian media have reported the boy is the youngest Australian to be arrested under Indonesia's tough drug laws. People convicted of smuggling or possessing drugs in Indonesia are often executed by firing squad. More than 140 prisoners are on death row in the country, including more than 50 foreigners.

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Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini in Jakarta contributed to this report.