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Registered: 07/26/04
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ANOTHER Aussie faces drugs death penalty
    #4569422 - 08/23/05 05:27 AM (12 years, 9 months ago)

Another Aussie faces drugs death penalty
August 23, 2005 - smh.com.au

A 20-year-old teacher has become the 10th Australian who could face a firing squad in Indonesia if convicted on drugs charges.

Graham Clifford Payne of Adelaide was arrested in Medan on Sumatra on Saturday allegedly with more than 2,000 tablets, including ecstasy, in his possession, The Associated Press reported.

He's being held on suspicion of distributing drugs, a capital offence in Indonesia.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, speaking in Perth, said Payne's arrest was "not a dealer situation".

"He is not being accused here of trafficking. He is being accused of being in possession of drugs," he said.

Also on Saturday, Adelaide-born model Michelle Leslie, 24, was nabbed at a dance party in Bali, allegedly with two ecstasy tablets in her bag.

Tests are underway to determine whether the tablets are illicit drugs.

Leslie, who models internationally under the name of Michelle Lee, faces a maximum of 15 years in jail if convicted, and a minimum of four, the Australian government said.

Payne and Leslie are the latest in a string of foreigners to caught in a police crackdown on illegal drugs across Indonesia.

Already facing a possible death penalty in Indonesia are the Bali nine, the eight Australian men and one woman accused of trying to smuggle more than 8kgs of heroin from Bali to Australia in April.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Australians must take heed of warnings about South-East Asia's tough stance on illegal drugs, But he does not believe Australians are being targeted by Indonesian police.

"I don't think they are targeting Australians but I do think they are very tough on drugs," he said in Perth.

"They are very committed to stopping the drug trade."

Indonesia's National Police Chief General Sutanto said he had no sympathy for young Australians caught in Indonesia's war on drugs.

"This is for the sake of both countries," he said. "Both have the same interest in fighting drugs."

Payne, an English-language teacher, was arrested at a rented house in Medan, North Sumatra. Reports said 2,126 assorted pills and four syringes were found.

"If the investigation proves that these really are drugs then they'll charge him," said Mr Downer.

Australian authorities had been asked not to identify the drugs the man was allegedly found to have.

"It is a broader array of drugs - at least allegedly, we don't know," Mr Downer said.

Australian consular officials are preparing to visit Payne, whose parents are already in Indonesia.

"He's not been charged as yet - he's been detained pending what charges would actually be laid," parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs Bruce Bilson told the Seven Network.

In Bali, Leslie hired Mohammad Rifan, a lawyer who is also defending some of the Bali nine. He is an advocate with a strong record of securing light sentences foreigners.

Leslie has proclaimed her innocence, telling police two suspected ecstasy tablets found in her handbag may have been planted there.

Bali police spokesman Colonel AS Reniban said the model had told detectives she bought the tablets from a "young man" the day before she was arrested.

Leslie was among a group of five people picked up in the early hours of Saturday morning during a police sweep at a Bali dance club - the GWK Cultural Park.

Officers said the results of urine tests on Leslie, who had stopped over in Bali after an assignment in Singapore, were negative for drug use.

Tests have since confirmed that the tablets were ecstasy and a formal criminal investigation has been launched.

The results of the laboratory tests were announced at a news conference in Bali by General Sutanto and the island's drug squad chief Colonel Bambang Sugiarto.

"From the preliminary tests, it is positive for ecstasy," said Sugiarto. "We checked it in Bali. We have the kit to test it."

He said that Leslie's case was "being investigated from today".

She was being treated as a suspect and a letter of temporary detention had been issued empowering police to hold her for up to 90 days for questioning.

Sugiarto said Leslie had not been questioned yet. But two people travelling in a car with her at the time of her arrest on Saturday night outside a dance party had been quizzed.

Sutanto said he would send details of the drug test to the Australian Federal Police.

While Leslie could face charges punishable by a maximum 15-year jail term, legal experts said such a small amount might only attract a jail term of a few months.

Leslie could still escape a court trial if she secures the services of a top lawyer, the experts said.

In Adelaide, her parents Albert and Violet Leslie were believed to be preparing to fly to Bali.

Leslie's partner in Sydney, car dealer Scott Sutton, has also been contacted.

"They want to keep publicity to a bare minimum in this particular case. They don't want themselves to be out there talking in the media," Mr Downer said.

Leslie, who started full-time modelling at the age of 15 and has been in hot demand for her Eurasian looks, recently became the new face of Antz Pantz underwear.

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