Au­stra­li­an wo­man es­ca­pes de­ath sen­ten­ce for drug traf­fic­king

Times of Suriname - - ENGELS -

MALAYSIA - An Au­stra­li­an wo­man has been found not guil­ty of drug traf­fic­king in Malaysia, a char­ge that car­ries a man­da­to­ry de­ath sen­ten­ce. On Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon a Ma­lay­si­an ju­d­ge found that Ma­ria El­vi­ra Pin­to Ex­pos­to did not know that the­re we­re drugs in her bag when cus­t­oms of­fi­ci­als found 1.1kg of ice – a po­tent form of me­t­hamp­he­ta­mi­ne – in her lug­ga­ge at Ku­a­la Lum­pur air­port in December 2014. Ex­pos­to’s la­wy­er, Mu­ham­mad Sha­fee Ab­dul­lah, said the ju­d­ge was con­vin­ced of her in­no­cen­ce af­ter hea­ring his client did not try to by­pass sear­ches at the air­port. “The ju­d­ge de­scri­bed her as nai­ve, not me­re­ly in­no­cent but nai­ve,” he told re­por­ters on Wed­nes­day. Ear­lier Ex­pos­to’s la­wy­ers had said their client would ha­ve been gi­ven a man­da­to­ry sen­ten­ce of de­ath by han­ging if she was found guil­ty in the Ma­lay­si­an high court. The pro­se­cu­ti­on agreed af­ter the ver­dict that Ex­pos­to could be de­por­ted to Au­stra­lia. A grand­mo­ther and mo­ther of four from Syd­ney, Ex­pos­to was ar­re­sted in December 2014 at Ku­a­la Lum­pur air­port en rou­te from Shang­hai to Au­stra­lia. Farhan Sha­fee, one of Ex­pos­to’s la­wy­ers, said his client was the “vic­tim of an in­ter­net ro­man­ce scam”, most li­ke­ly from west Afri­ca. Ex­pos­to’s la­wy­ers said her be­ha­vi­our be­fo­re the ar­rest sug­ge­sted she was “a vic­tim” ra­ther than a traf­fic­ker. De­spi­te being ab­le to remain in the tran­sit area of the air­port be­fo­re her con­nec­ting flight to Au­stra­lia, Ex­pos­to un­ne­ces­sa­ri­ly pas­sed through cus­t­oms and wil­lin­gly ap­pro­a­ched of­fi­ci­als to ha­ve her bags check­ed.

“Un­li­ke in Au­stra­lia, in Malaysia cus­t­oms doe­sn’t check eve­ry­o­ne, so they would do a random se­lec­ti­on as you pass through. But Ma­ria vo­lun­ta­ri­ly went and put her bag on the x-ray ma­chi­ne,” Sha­fee said. Malaysia has a man­da­to­ry de­ath pe­nal­ty by han­ging for an­y­o­ne found guil­ty of car­rying mo­re than 50 grams of a drug.

In Au­gust the Ma­lay­si­an govern­ment agreed to scrap the man­da­to­ry de­ath pe­nal­ty for drug traf­fic­kers by gi­ving ju­d­ges the dis­cre­ti­on to gi­ve a li­fe sen­ten­ce in pri­son. Ho­we­ver the chan­ge is yet to be ra­ti­fied, and Ex­pos­to’s la­wy­ers war­ned she fa­ced a man­da­to­ry de­ath sen­ten­ce if con­vic­ted. Three Au­stra­li­an na­ti­o­nals ha­ve been exe­cu­ted by the sta­te: Mi­chael McAu­lif­fe in 1993, and Ke­vin Bar­low and Bri­an Cham­bers in 1986.

(The Gu­ar­di­an)

Ma­ria El­vi­ra Pin­to Ex­pos­to (left) fa­ced a man­da­to­ry de­ath sen­ten­ce. (Photo: Reuters)

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