Lindsay Sandiford - What price a life?


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No bribe? Then die. Simple!

Is it possible to put a price on a human life? In Indonesia it is. There, the price of a life is negotiated in the same way that one might haggle over a piece of meat in a market. The reason? Indonesia does not have a properly functioning system to deal with criminality. The criminal have largely commandeered the application of the law to serve their own scurrilous ends.

At the end of April, 2015, Bali-based lawyer Muhammad Rifan asserted that he had made an agreement with judges to commute the proposed death sentences of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran to a prison term of less than 20 years in exchange for a bribe of A$133,000. The deal, he said, fell through when officials in the Attorney General’s office and the Supreme Court in Jakarta demanded an even higher bribe, which Rifan did not have the funds to pay. A lawyer for another condemned man, Nigerian Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise, also claims a judge offered a prison sentence rather than execution if a bribe were paid.

According to the late Daniel Saul Lev, American political scientist and scholar on Indonesia: "In mid-1998, when President Suharto resigned his office, not a single principal institution of the state remained reasonably healthy. Corruption, incompetence, mis-orientation, and organisational breakdown were characteristic.” “The legal process,” he said, “had little integrity left.” Sex, drugs and bankrolls

Corruption in the Indonesian judiciary is ubiquitous, defiling the courts at every level. While there are notable exceptions, many Indonesian judges are not only corrupt, but increasingly drug-addled too. In October, 2012, the National Narcotics Agency revealed that, in total, it was investigating 10 judges implicated in drug cases in Java and Sumatra alone (representing less than half of Indonesia's provinces). In fact, some judges are little more than a tragic joke, such as Judge Hari Sasangka, who was photographed having sex in a car in his court's car park. Copulating with him on the back seat was Shinta Kencana Kheng, a key witness, ironically alleging sexual abuse, in what is widely seen as a stitch-up of Anand Krishna who, by preaching inter-faith harmony, has upset certain Islamic factions in Indonesia and been jailed.

Supreme corruption

In 2012, Nurhadi, Secretary of the Indonesian Supreme Court, who lives in a luxurious house, owns a white Mini Cooper S, yet failed to submit a wealth report to Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Commission as required, had the wherewithal to buy himself a desk for his office alleged to be worth US$105,000. This was despite the fact that, prior to the end of 2012, even Indonesian judges' salaries ranged from only US$186 to US$465 a month.

In the same year, supreme court judges Achmad Yamanie, Imron Anwari and Nyak Pha, reduced the sentence of Hengky Gunawan - a drug lord convicted of possessing crystal methamphetamine and accused of operating a drug laboratory - from capital punishment to 15 years in prison. As if that were not enough, Judge Yamanie then, brazenly in his own handwriting, altered Hengky’s 15 year jail term to 12 years in the draft verdict. Controversially, Judge Yamanie had previously annulled a 17-year sentence against drug dealer Naga Sariawan Cipto Rimba, alias Liong-Liong, and helped annul the death sentences of at least three drug convicts. Judge Yamanie is the first Indonesian Supreme Court justice to be dismissed for malpractice.

In another instance, Supreme Court Judges Zaharudin Utama and Mansyur Zaharudin Kertayasa, accepted bribes totalling US$334,000 to overrule a previous Supreme Court decision against Muhammad Misbakhun of the Prosperous Justice Party, previously found guilty of forging documents in order to obtain a US$22.5 million loan from Bank Century.

The graft pyramid

The above cases relate just to the judiciary; but the police, prosecution service and prison authorities are equally corrupt. Many police, rather than apprehending criminals to protect society, prefer to share in the proceeds of crime. Once an offender is locked up, corrupt police empty his bank account, remove his cars and any expensive items from his home, and demand bribes in return for weakening the charges against him.

After a visit to Indonesia in November, 2007, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture reported that he: “… received numerous and consistent allegations that corruption is deeply ingrained in the criminal justice system. Several sources indicated that at every stage, starting from the police and the judiciary to the detention centres and prisons, corruption is a quasi-institutionalized practice.”

Amnesty International, in its 2009 report titled "Indonesia: Unfinished Business: Police Accountability in Indonesia" confirms that: “A system of extortion and bribery characterises police detention.” “Police abuse petty criminal suspects, sex workers and drug users…, sometimes because they want to extract money from them. These violations include excessive use of force sometimes leading to fatal shootings, and torture and other ill-treatment.” “…. the police in Indonesia are still perceived today as a highly corrupt and mistrusted institution. Although police officials are in charge of promoting the rule of law, in reality they often behave as if they were above the law.”

Police corruption in Indonesia resembles the pyramid selling model. According to General Bambang Hendarso Danuri, head of the National Police in Indonesia, until he was relieved of his duties in 2010, new police recruits are frequently required to pay substantial sums – between US$10,000 -US$20,000 - to enter the police force. General Susno Duadji head of the National Police Crime Investigation Agency (Bareskrim), until his resignation in November, 2009, confirmed that to become a sergeant, US$550 must be paid, and further amounts must be paid for a lucrative post (e.g. with the traffic police in Jakarta). Consequently, police officers are constantly looking for 'investigation fees', bribes and extortion money to pay those above them in the pyramid.

Pervasive malaise

The World Justice Project's Rule of Law Index 2012 – 2013, cites Indonesia as facing “challenges in the functioning of government agencies and courts. Corruption,” it says, “is pervasive, ranking last in the region and eighty-sixth globally. The courts are perceived to be independent of government control, but affected by powerful private interests and corruption.” It goes on say that, “Police abuse and harsh conditions at correctional facilities are also significant problems.” Indeed, corrupt elements within the police, the prosecutor’s office and the judiciary often work in conjunction with corrupt lawyers, case brokers and underworld figures – known in Indonesia as the 'legal mafia' - to subvert the law and justice. Large numbers of gangsters, in the employ of the legal mafia, are often seen in and around court rooms for the sole purpose of intimidating and threatening a party, witnesses and even the prosecution officials and judges during a trial, in order to achieve a desired outcome.

Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW) describe the court as “no longer a place to earn justice, it is a justice market”, because “securing a sympathetic judge can be done with an appropriate payment and once the judge is appointed, efforts can be made to buy the required verdict.”

So bad is the level of corruption in the judiciary that in November, 2013, numerous young judges were motivated to form Rencana Peserta Aksi Hakim (Judges' Action Plan), in order to protect the Supreme Court from the legal mafia, clean up the judiciary, promote judges of integrity and help reform-minded judges come to prominence in the justice sector. Lindsay Sandiford

Given the blighted and sullied nature of the dysfunctional Indonesian legal system, it is particularly unconscionable that capital punishment should be meted out at all. However, public outrage in Indonesia at both judicial corruption and drug trafficking, does not bode well for 56-year-old, Briton, Lindsay Sandiford, sentenced to death for flying to Bali from Bangkok carrying 10.6lb of cocaine, worth US$2,5 million. Once arrested, Sandiford had co-operated with police to apprehend the others involved in the trafficking, based on a police promise that she would enjoy witness protection.

Lone carrier of the can

The judges sentencing Sandiford, stated their reason for meting out the death penalty was that she was involved in an international drug smuggling operation with other expatriates. However, those 'other expatriates' - Julian Ponder, Paul Beale (drug trafficking charges were dropped against both men) and Rachel Dougall (eventually charged with just failing to report a crime) – were mysteriously sentenced to just six years, four years and one year respectively.

Julian Ponder - dubbed the ‘King of Bali’ for his swagger and luxurious lifestyle - had been resident in Bali for four years, where he lived with his partner, Rachel Dougall, in a $1,500 per week luxury villa and was widely known to be in the business of selling cocaine to expatriates.

Lord Ken MacDonald, former UK Director of Public Prosecutions, writes, in relation to Sandiford's death sentence, that: “It is an internationally established principle that those lower down in the chain of a criminal conspiracy should get lower sentences than those higher up, and secondly that those who provide assistance to the prosecution should receive reduced sentences.”

Nevertheless, in August, Sandiford's appeal to the Supreme Court of Indonesia failed. According to Zoe Bedford, of the legal charity Reprieve, "It is clear that Lindsay was merely a vulnerable mule, exploited by those further up in the chain who have avoided serious punishment."

Bribes to stay alive

Simon Parry writes on MailOnline that: "Sandiford believes the reason her co-accused received reduced charges and light sentences was that they paid money to officials through their lawyers – a widespread and well-documented practice in the Indonesian court system.

"However, because she had no money, she says she never had the chance to pay her way out of trouble. ‘What upsets me most of all is that I feel it’s just not fair because I don’t have one million pounds,’ she said."

Opportunity beckons

Foreigners convicted of crimes in Indonesia generally receive harsher sentences than Indonesians and are, therefore, expected to pay much larger amounts of money to police, prosecution and judicial officials in order to avoid them. By way of confirmation of this, rumour on the expatriate grapevine in Bali has it that a total of just over US$1 million was paid by Julian Ponder, Rachel Dougall and Paul Beales to corrupt officials in the justice sector to secure their lenient sentences. Section 6 of the UK's extra-territorial Bribery Act 2010, which stipulates that bribery of foreign public officials is a distinct crime, offers an opportunity to ensure that some measure of justice is achieved against those who have left Sandiford to carry the can. The British authorities, the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission and SATGAS - President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's specially convened task force to eradicate Indonesia’s legal mafia - by combining their efforts, could send a clear message to the corrupt in the Indonesian legal system. Slaughter planned

Currently, there are some 140 prisoners on death row in Indonesia, where executions had ceased for almost five years. Most, including more than sixty foreigners, are there because of drug-related offences. However, in 2013, with the 2014 presidential elections fast approaching, four people were shot by firing squad: Adami Wilson, a Malawian/Nigerian drug smuggler who had had the temerity to complain that his sentence had not been commuted after he had paid a bribe, and Indonesians Suryadi Swabuana, Jurit bin Abdullah and Ibrahim bin Ujang, all convicted of murder. The target for the year, says Attorney General Basrief Arief, is at least 10 executions, but as many as 20 death-row inmates could be killed. Because of deep-seated prejudice against Africans in Indonesia, they are likely to bear the brunt of any such slaughter; which, quite ironically, will step up drug dealing in jail in order to earn money to pay the bribe needed to save one's life (drug dealing is rampant, even in Indonesia's high-security prisons - see the update below). Having spilt the beans about an international drug smuggling operation, Lindsay Sandiford is unlikely to have this option. UPDATE: 16th January, 2015 Indonesia’s Attorney General has declared that six convicted drug traffickers will be executed on Sunday, 18th January, five of whom are foreign citizens. The killings will be carried out by firing squad. UPDATE: 23rd April, 2015 As a follow-up to the executions of four men from Brazil, Malawi, Nigeria and the Netherlands, a Vietnamese and an Indonesian woman in January, preparations are now under way in Indonesia for the executions by firing squad of 10 more drug smugglers: three Nigerians, two Australians, and one person each from Brazil, Ghana, France, the Philippines and Indonesia. The Filipino is a maid by the name of Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso; the two Australian men are Andrew Chan, 33, and Myuran Sukumaran, 31 (of the so-called 'Bali Nine'); the Nigerians are Raheem Agbaje Salami (also known as Jamiu Owolabi Abashin), Sylvester Obiekwe Nwolise, 49, and Okwudili Oyatanze, 45; Rodrigo Gularte, 42, is the Brazilian national and alleged to be suffering from mental health problems; Serge Areski Atlaoui, 41, is the French national; and Martin Anderson, 50, the Ghanaian. Zainal Abidin bin Mgs Mahmud Badarudin, is the only Indonesian citizen amongst the group. The are currently more than 130 people on death row in Indonesia, including 57 drug convicts.


Handoyo Sudrajat, the Justice Ministry’s Director General of Corrections, resigns a few weeks after police arrest Freddy Budiman, a drug convict on death row at the high-security prison island of Nusakambangan. In 2013 drug lord, Freddy Budiman, was sentenced to death for trafficking a million ecstasy pills, with an estimated street value of $3.45 million, into the Indonesia from China. Recently he was found to be giving orders from prison to run his drugs empire. He was assisted by two guards at the prison, who were promised cash, cars and houses. Rather ironically, it was in June 2007, that 244 prisoners convicted of various drugs and narcotics offences were transported to the then new Super Maximum Security Prison (SMS) on Nusakambangan, in order to isolate them and cut drug circulation in Indonesia.


Nusakambangan is the island where convicted drug offenders are killed; yet, ironically, its prisons also have a reputation for supplying the illicit drug market from their own meth. labs, to which prison officials turn a blind eye. Recently, Bayu Anggit Permana, a corrections officer, was caught with 27 packets of crystal methamphetamine, weighing 13.5 grams each. Bayu was acting as a drug courier for an inmate named Abdul Rosyid, who paid him $191 to smuggle the drugs off the island. Both now face a sentence of between 12 and 20 years in prison.

UPDATE: 27th July, 2016 Flawed Justice - Unfair Trials and the Death Penalty in Indonesia

See this publication by Amnesty International:

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