British woman weeps after Bali death sentence

A British woman has been sentenced to death in Indonesia for drug trafficking.

Lindsay Sandiford (aged 56) originally from Redcar in Teesside, was arrested in May last year after police in Bali said they found 10.6lb (4.8kg) of cocaine worth £1.6m (€1.9m) in the lining of her suitcase.

The sentence prompted gasps of surprise in Denpasar District Court. Not even the prosecution had been seeking the death penalty.

Sandiford wept as judges handed down the sentence and refused to speak to reporters on her way back to prison, covering her face with a scarf.

She had previously claimed in court that she was forced into taking the drugs into the country by gangsters who were threatening to hurt one of her children.

Sandiford's lawyers are expected to appeal against the sentence,

A spokeswoman for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: "We can confirm that a British national is facing the death penalty in Indonesia.

"We remain in close contact with that national and continue to provide consular assistance.

"The UK remains strongly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances."

Delivering the sentence, a panel headed by Judge Amser Simanjuntak concluded that Sandiford had damaged the image of Bali as a tourist destination and weakened the government's anti-drugs programme.

The judge told the court: "We found no reason to lighten her sentence."

Prosecutors said during Sandiford's trial that they were seeking a 15-year prison term.

Sandiford previously told the court she became involved only because "the lives of my children were in danger".

In her witness statement, she said: "I would like to begin by apologising to the Republic of Indonesia and the Indonesian people for my involvement.

"I would never have become involved in something like this but the lives of my children were in danger and I felt I had to protect them."

During the trial, her lawyer read out a statement from her son which said: "I love my mother very much and have a very close relationship with her.

"I know that she would do anything to protect me. I cannot imagine what I would do if she was sentenced to death in relation to these charges."

Three other Britons were arrested at the same time as Sandiford in a sting operation.

Julian Ponder and Rachel Dougall were accused of being involved in the same smuggling operation. Paul Beales was also detained.

At the time of her arrest, Dougall, who has a young daughter, insisted she was the victim of a "fit-up" and Ponder claimed he was "trapped".

Ponder's lawyer claimed he was told that Sandiford was delivering a present for his child's birthday and, when he met her to receive the gift, police officers arrested him.

A verdict is expected in the trial of Ponder tomorrow. He is accused of receiving the drugs in Bali, which has a busy bar and nightclub scene where party drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy are bought and sold between foreigners.

Indonesia has an estimated 114 prisoners on death row. Most of the more than 40 foreigners among them have been convicted of drug crimes, according to a March 2012 report by Australia's Lowy Institute for International Policy.

Five foreigners have been executed since 1998, all for drug crimes, according to the institute. There have been no executions in the country since 2008, when 10 people were put to death.

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