Tuesday, August 14, 2012

An Australian mother faces the death penalty

Australian faces death penalty in Malaysia

ASHLEY HALL: The mother of an Australian woman arrested overseas on drug trafficking charges has pleaded with Malaysian authorities to let her daughter come home.

Thirty-four year old Emma Louisa L'Aiguille was arrested in July, when police found about one kilogram of methamphetamine in a car she was driving.

Malaysian laws consider anyone found with more than 50 grams of methamphetamine a drug trafficker, and that crime carries a mandatory death sentence.

Will Ockenden reports.

WILL OCKENDEN: An Australian woman held on drugs charges in a foreign jail, protesting her innocence.

It all sounds very familiar, according to south-east Asian studies expert Dr Marshall Clark.

MARSHALL CLARK: I guess it has echoes with the Schapelle Corby case in Bali which is almost a decade ago now.

WILL OCKENDEN: But in this case the penalty is much harsher.

Emma L'Aiguille is accused of trafficking drugs after being stopped by police while driving a car several weeks ago. Police allege they discovered about a kilogram of methamphetamine under the seat.

The charge of trafficking automatically attracts the death penalty under Malaysian law.

Ms L'Aiguille's mother, Amanda Innes, told Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper that she just wants to see her daughter brought home alive.

But Dr Marshall Clark from the Australian National University says Malaysia takes drugs charges very seriously.

MARSHALL CLARK: There is not much nuance in regards to drug trafficking laws. If you have drugs on your possession, in your car, in your bags, your luggage, you are assumed and if it is over a certain amount of course, I think it is over 50 grams of illicit drugs, you are assumed to be a trafficker and you've got to prove somehow or another that you're not and that's the tricky bit.

WILL OCKENDEN: In the past, Malaysia has shown little mercy to foreigners found guilty of drug trafficking.

Two Australians were hanged in 1986, and another in 1993.

MARSHALL CLARK: Since 1964 440 people have been executed for drugs related charges including two Australians who were hung in 1986 for heroin trafficking, fairly well known cases at the time, Barlow and Chambers.

But in recent years there are a lot less in terms of executions despite the number of being sentenced to death being over 300 in the last five years. Despite that large number of being sentenced to deal for drug trafficking, only two have actually been executed.

WILL OCKENDEN: On the 19th of July, Australian officials from the embassy met with Emma L'Aiguille. The Department of Foreign Affairs says Malaysia is well aware the Australian Government is strongly opposed to capital punishment.

A member of her defence team Tania Scievetti says she will fight against a death penalty.

TANIA SCIEVETTI: She was not aware that there were drugs in the car. She doesn't know the whereabouts of the drugs as rather she was not physically there when the police examined the vehicle. She was taken away from the vehicle and then the police searched the vehicle in her absence.

WILL OCKENDEN: Emma L'Aiguille's mother, Amanda Innes, is planning to go to Malaysia for the next court hearing in October.

The ANU's Dr Marshall Clark says it'll be a tough, drawn out legal process.

MARSHALL CLARK: This is early days yet. As with Schapelle Corby it took quite a while for everything to be revealed and unravelled and even then there is still lots of loose ends about her particular story.

ASHLEY HALL: Dr Marshall Clark from Australian National University, ending Will Ockenden's report.- The World Today, 2/8/2012, Australian faces death penalty in Malaysia

In Malaysia, the moment that you are arrested with a certain amount of drugs, 2 legal presumptions arise

ONE - You are knowingly in possession of the said drugs

TWO - If above a certain amount in weight, then you are a drug trafficker.

Then, the burden shifts to the accused persons to rebut the said 2 presumptions in court, which really is a near impossible task. 

It is my position that the burden of proving all the elements of any crime must always lie with the prosecution. He who accuses must prove.

MANDATORY DEATH PENALTY - the judge has no discretion when it comes to sentencing, and this too is wrong. Discretion when it comes to sentencing must always have the discretion to impose an appropriate sentence based on the facts and circumstances of each and every case. Parliament(legislative) should not bind the hands of the judiciary and withdraw this discretion. 

DEATH PENALTY must be abolished - in this modern day and age, there is enough options for sentencing, and the time has come when death penalty and corporal punishment need to be abolished. There are just too many flaws in the system that makes death penalty too risky a sentence for there is certainly a likelihood that an innocent person can wrongly be sent to death.


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