Australian teen unlikely to face Indonesian prison

AP News
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Posted: Oct 10, 2011 7:27 AM
Australian teen unlikely to face Indonesian prison

A 14-year-old Australian boy arrested on Indonesia's resort island of Bali for alleged possession of marijuana likely will avoid a prison sentence because of his age, police said Monday.

The boy, who cannot be identified under Indonesian law, has been detained in a police cell since Oct. 4 when he allegedly bought a quarter ounce (7 grams) of marijuana while on vacation with his parents and a 13-year-old friend.

The local drug squad chief, Col. Mulyadi, who uses a single name, said the boy will have to stand trial. But he'll probably be charged with a count that doesn't carry a prison term since he is still a minor and appears to have been purchasing the drug for personal use, not distribution, the police official said.

The case has triggered intense media interest in Australia, which has seen several of its citizens thrown in jail or placed on death row for smuggling or possessing drugs in Indonesia. However, the boy reportedly is the youngest yet.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard took the unusual step of speaking to him and his father by telephone Sunday, assuring them her "government was doing everything it could."

The child's lawyer, Muhammad Rifan, said his client was eager to get home as soon as possible. The boy is being held at police headquarters because Bali does not have a special detention house for minors, he said.

The case could be handed over to prosecutors this week, Rifan said.

He said the trial probably will be held in Bali, but didn't rule out the possibility of a deal between Indonesian and Australia to avoid a trial.

Classmates of the boy, from Morrisset Park, north of Sydney, returned to school after a two-week break Monday, and described the situation as confusing and upsetting.

"He seems like a good kid," a male student, who was not identified, told Seven News television. "He just doesn't deserve this."

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Associated Press writer Ali Kotarumalos in Jakarta and Rod McGuirk in Canberra contributed to this report.