A British grandmother sentenced to death in Indonesia for drug trafficking must pin her hopes on a plea for clemency direct to the country’s President after her final legal appeal against execution was rejected unanimously.
Lindsay Sandiford, 57, who was arrested last year with nearly 4kg of cocaine in her suitcase, faces a firing squad unless a reprieve is issued by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – who has previously made clear his reluctance to show leniency to foreign nationals on death row.
Campaigners said Mrs Sandiford, originally from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, has almost run out of legal options after Indonesia’s Supreme Court today rejected her appeal against the death sentence handed down to her in January by a lower court on the resort island of Bali.
Supporters of the Briton’s case for clemency, who include the former Director of Public Prosecutions Lord Macdonald, have expressed bewilderment at the severity of the sentence imposed upon her in contrast to lesser punishments imposed on other Britons accused alongside her.
Lawyers for Mrs Sandiford have argued that she is a low-ranking drugs “mule” who has been exploited by senior members of the smuggling gang. Julian Ponder, 43, who was not tried for trafficking and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for drug possession, is alleged to have been the organiser of the shipment carried by the grandmother – a claim he has denied.
Zoe Bedford, of the human rights group Reprieve, said: “It is clear that Lindsay was merely a mule, exploited by those further up the chain who have avoided serious punishment.
“The decision [to dismiss her appeal] is deeply disappointing. Lindsay has repeatedly apologised to the Indonesian people for her actions, which she deeply regrets. She co-operated fully with the police and has never sought to avoid punishment, asking only for a sentence that was proportionate to her offence.”
After she flew into Bali from the Thai capital Bangkok with the cocaine, worth some £1.6m, concealed in her luggage, Mrs Sandiford agreed to assist the authorities, leading them to Mr Ponder and others. As a result of her co-operation, prosecutors asked that she receive a 15-year prison term but the judge at her trial instead sentenced her to death by firing squad.
Under Indonesian law Mrs Sandiford could still seek a judicial review but only if she is able to present new evidence or allege a miscarriage of justice. The sole additional avenue is a presidential pardon, which the grandmother now has 12 months to seek.
Although no foreign national has been executed in Indonesia since 2008, President Yudhoyono, a retired general, has publicly declared his reluctance to intervene in the justice system despite receiving requests from “many countries” for clemency. Speaking in 2011, he said: “I turn down almost all requests of pardon and acquittal from the death sentence. It is for the sake of justice.”
In a statement, the Foreign Office said: “We will consider how to support any application for judicial review or clemency Lindsay Sandiford chooses to make.”
Britons abroad: The players
Rachel Dougall, 39
Ponder’s partner, Dougall, was arrested following a search of their luxury Balinese villa by police. She was imprisoned for 12 months for failing to report a crime.
Julian Ponder, 43
The Londoner was originally charged with drug trafficking along with Mrs Sandiford. Ponder was cleared of smuggling and given six years for possession of 48 grams of cocaine.
Paul Beales, 41
Alleged to have been one of two men who provided Sandiford with the drugs in Bangkok, Beales did not face a trafficking charge and is serving four years for possession of cannabis.