British teacher gets life for heroin trading in Thailand

Kathy Marks
Friday 20 September 2002 00:00
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A British man was jailed for life in Thailand yesterday for trying to smuggle a suitcase containing heroin on to a flight from Bangkok to Taiwan.

Julian Gilbey, 35, a former English language teacher from the Isle of Bute, was convicted of conspiring with a Dutchman and two Nepalese men to traffic more than 4kg (9lb) of heroin. The four, dressed in brown prison overalls and shackled at the ankles, stood silently in Bangkok Criminal Court as the judge, Nampetch Panatuek, read out the sentence in Thai.

They were all initially sentenced to death, a punishment enforced by firing squad in Thailand, but the sentences were commuted because the four co-operated with police.

Gilbey admitted smuggling, but said he believed he was carrying diamonds and claimed he was tricked into carrying the drugs. His family and cam-paigners said there were serious doubts about the fairness of the trial. Lawyers for the four men said they were innocent and would appeal.

Alan Reid, Liberal Democrat MP for Argyll and Bute, said Gilbey had been convicted on the basis of a signed confession. "It had been written in Thai and presented to him," he said. "Under Thai law, it should have been presented in English, but Julian insists it was never translated for him."

Gilbey's sister, Karen Cameron, said the family were relieved that the death sentence had been commuted and were pinning their hopes on an appeal. She said his version of events was not heard in court. Speaking from her mother's home in Rothesay, on Bute, she said: "My mother is 70 and she wants to see her son again. She's devastated."

Gilbey – with the Dutchman, Marinus Hendrikus Parlevliet, and Parlevliet's Thai girlfriend, Namoy Nakcharoen – was arrested at Don Muang international airport in Bangkok last October after a tip-off from American Drug Enforcement Administration officers. The three were trying to board a flight to Taiwan.

They had been followed from a hotel where the two Nepalis, Hari Garung Bahadur and Pore Ghale, had delivered a suitcase containing 4.3kg of heroin. The latter told the court they had been stopped on the street by another foreigner and asked to take the suitcase to the two Europeans. The Nepalis said they were not aware of its contents.

Ms Namoy was acquitted, but she was ordered to be held pending an appeal by the state prosecutor.

Stephen Jakobi of Fair Trials Abroad said the organisation feared that Gilbey had fallen prey to a gang that had duped a number of people into carrying drugs.

A man in Austria was acquitted of the same charge because the court accepted that he had been tricked. Mr Jakobi said he hoped the evidence from Austria would be looked at very carefully at the appeal. "They should do, because it is of great concern when you get different results from the same facts," he said.

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