Bali police say tests show Australian teen didn't have drugs

AP News
Posted: Nov 23, 2016 4:53 PM

BALI, Indonesia (AP) — An Australian teenager detained on suspicion of illicit drug possession in Indonesia was released from custody late Wednesday after police said tests showed that a satchel of powder be bought on the street was a legal painkiller.

Security staff found a small plastic package of white powder in Jamie Murphy's bag while the teen was at a nightclub in the entertainment precinct of Kuta just after midnight Tuesday. The 18-year-old was celebrating with fellow graduates from their high school in the Australian west coast city of Perth.

"All drug tests against him came to be negative, so he should be released immediately," Bali police chief Sugeng Priyanto said.

The powder was a paracetamol mixture and tests of his hair and urine were also negative for illicit drugs, said Koesnadi, the police forensic lab chief in Bali who goes by a single name. The paracetamol, which is also known as acetaminophen, was mixed with a second analgesic that the authorities did not name.

Murphy had bought the powder on the street from a man who told him: "this medicine is better for your life," Kuta police chief Wayan Sumara said. Sumara did not know how much Murphy had paid for the 1.6 grams (0.06 of an ounce) of powder. Murphy had not known at the time whether it was an illicit drug, Sumara said.

News Corp. newspapers reported Murphy could have been sentenced to 12 years in prison if the powder proved to be cocaine or heroin as police had suspected.

Asked if he felt relieved as he left the Kuta police building, Murphy replied to journalists: "Yep."

Murphy's Indonesian lawyer, Dessi Widiantari, said Murphy's parents and Australian diplomats in Bali have made telephone contact and will meet him on Thursday.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the case was a warning to thousands of Australian students and graduates who travel overseas to celebrate their graduations that they must abide by sometimes harsh local laws.

Australian Nicholas Langan, 26, was freed from a Bali prison in January after serving 12 months for sharing a marijuana cigarette on a beach.

A 14-year-old Australian boy, who was not named, was sentenced to two months in prison after he was arrested with 3.6 grams (0.13 of an ounce) of marijuana during a family vacation to Bali in 2011.

Indonesia has severe penalties for breaking its drug laws, and past executions of drug convicts have caused diplomatic tensions with Australia.