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Indonesia: Australian may face firing squad

Olivia Rondonuwu in Mataram, Lombok

Courier Mail, Australia

Monday 22 May 2006

AN Australian woman allegedly caught with a small amount of cannabis has
tearfully appeared before an Indonesian court on charges that carry
lengthy jail terms and even death by firing squad.

Prosecutors said Barbara Kathleen Higgs, 43, was arrested in February
with 49.7g of cannabis and two small bags of seeds at Sengiggi beach on
Lombok island, where she part owns a hotel named the Bulan Baru, or New

They alleged Ms Higgs, a Western Australian who had lived with her New
Zealand husband in Lombok for five years, had admitted buying the drug
on February 17 from a friend at the Blue Coral disco in Sengiggi for
500,000 rupiah ($A73) and that she had tried to sell some of the stash.

Police claim they uncovered the drugs in a luggage bag when they raided
her home two days later following a tip-off by local residents.

Ms Higgs wore a black-and-gold headscarf and dark glasses when she
arrived at Mataram District Court in Lombok, flanked by armed police.

Inside she had to be coaxed by judges to uncover her face.

With her husband Melvin sitting beside her, and dressed in black jacket
and slacks, Higgs asked that photographers and cameramen be cleared from
the court.

"I'm sorry, chief judge, but my family is watching. There are lots of
journalists here. Please pity my family," she asked the presiding Judge
Fachrur Rozie in fluent Indonesian.

"I know this is extraordinary, but I ask you to send the journalists out
of the courtroom."

Judge Rozie agreed, but photographers continued to shoot Ms Higgs
through the court's windows, prompting an attendant to cover over the
glass with a green flag.

Ms Higgs shielded her face with a copy of the prosecution indictment.

Prosecutors charged Ms Higgs with three sections of Indonesia's tough
anti-drugs laws, including Article 82 for trafficking, which carries the
death penalty.

They also charged her with Article 78 for possession, which carries a
10-year jail term, and Article 85 for personal use, which has a maximum
penalty of four years imprisonment.

Prosecutor Raharjo Yusuf Wibisono said Higgs had tried to sell some of
the drug stash "without rights and against the law", meaning a possible
firing squad.

Along with the drugs, police found a makeshift smoking pipe or "bong"
made out of a soft drink can.

Subsequent lab tests for cannabis – regarded as a class one narcotic in
Indonesia just like heroin – had proved positive, Mr Wibisono said.

At one stage Judge Rozie gently chastised Ms Higgs for "improperly"
crossing her legs in court.

He also tried unsuccessfully to get her to appear alone, telling her
"the judge will not be angry" if her husband sat behind her in the
public area.

Defence lawyers said they would not lodge an objection and would go
straight into their defence when the trial resumed on June 1.

Ms Higgs' arrest followed a nationwide drug crackdown in Indonesia
ordered by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.,20797,19217686-954,00.html




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