Fri, 17 Nov 2000

Frenchman gets life sentence for drug smuggling

DENPASAR, Bali (JP): The Denpasar District Court handed down on Thursday a life sentence to a French national for smuggling 3.85 kilograms of hashish onto Bali island last December.

Prosecutors had sought the death penalty for the defendant, who was a cook in his hometown.

Michael Loic Blanc, the 27-year-old defendant (not 32 years as earlier reported), looked helpless after the verdict was read.

His parents and court security pressed around him and escorted him out of the court after the verdict.

According to the panel of judges, presided over by Ni Nyoman Mariati, Blanc was arrested by Ngurah Rai International Airport security officers on Dec. 26 of last year for carrying 3.85 kilograms of hashish.

Blanc, who arrived at the airport on a tourist visa, flew on Garuda Indonesia from India via Bangkok.

"He arrived at 3:25 p.m. local time and the X-Ray scanner picked up two scuba tanks in one of his cases. The security officers found that the tanks were empty of oxygen, and in the presence of the defendant, the officers opened the steel bottles and found 189 small rolls and 178 packets of hashish weighing 3.85 kilograms," the judge said.

Blanc had planned to sell the illegal drug in Bali, judge Mariati said. "The defendant violated Paragraph 1 of Article 82 of the Law No. 22/1997 on drugs and psychotropics."

It took one hour for the panel of judges, consisting of Mariati, IB Dwiantara and Tjokorda Rai Suamba, to take turns reading the verdict.

In the trial which lasted from 12:15 noon to 13:50 p.m. the defendant was accompanied by interpreter, Jean Cauteau.

Blanc's parents, who were among the visitors, were distraught over the verdict. His mother, Ellen Blanc tried to confront one of the judges before one of the lawyers calmed her down.

"I think it was a normal reaction for parents who care deeply for their son. The only thing we want is justice for our son, and I don't think that the verdict reflects justice that our son is entitled to," Jean Claude Blanc, the defendant's father said.

In the previous hearing Blanc said that the scuba tanks belonged to Philip, a friend living in Bombay, India.

He told the police that he had spent 15 days there before flying to Bali. He also claimed to have used the tanks for diving several times in India, and that he knew nothing about the hashish.

The defendant's attorneys, Dwi Surya Hadi Budi and Ferdinandus said they would appeal the verdict, while prosecutors Djiwi Arsih and Anak Agung Gede Satya M, who had asked the court for the death penalty, said they were still uncertain whether or not they would appeal.