Lindsay Sandiford: Indonesian Death Penalty Usually Conducted By Firing Squad, But Executions Rare

The death sentence upon British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford for drug trafficking in Indonesia has sent shockwaves through the international human rights community, with many activists expressing disbelief that so harsh a sentence has been handed down.

Indonesian prosecutors had asked the court for a 15 year sentence - and had not pressed for the death penalty.

The sentence prompted gasps of surprise in Denpasar District Court.

Lindsay Sandiford reacts as her interpreter (L) looks on during her trial

Delivering the sentence, a panel headed by Judge Amser Simanjuntak concluded that Sandiford had damaged the image of Bali as a tourist destination and weakened the government's anti-drugs programme.

The judge told the court: "We found no reason to lighten her sentence."

A university professor and expert on women in the international drug trade who submitted expert evidence during the trial said she was shocked by the "completely disproportionate" sentence.

Jennifer Fleetwood, a lecturer in criminology at the University of Kent, said it was very likely that Sandiford had been coerced into acting as a drug mule.

Dr Fleetwood said Indonesia has not executed anyone since 2008, when 10 people, including two foreigners, were killed.

There are approximately 100 people on death row, of whom 41 are foreign nationals, most of whom have been convicted of drug crimes, according to a March 2012 report by Australia's Lowy Institute for International Policy.

Five foreigners have been executed since 1998, all for drug crimes, according to the institute. The penalty is only given for murder, terrorism and drug trafficking.

Indonesia executes its prisoners by firing squad, with the condemned taken to a field and order to stand in front of 12 gunman, who each take a shot with a rifle.

A spokesman for Amnesty told The Huffington Post UK that Denpasar District Court in Bali sentenced 4 people to death in 2012 for murder. "The court had also previously issued death sentences for crimes such as drug trafficking and terrorism including the Bali bombers who were executed in 2008. However since these executions, there have been no executions in Indonesia."

Human rights charity Reprieve, which is assisting Sandiford, has urged the British Government to support her appeal.

Lindsay Sandiford arrives at a courthouse in Denpasar, Bali island, Indonesia

In a statement to the Huffington Post UK, investigator Harriet McCulloch said: "Lindsay has always maintained that she only agreed to carry the package to Bali after receiving threats against the lives of her family.

"She is clearly not a drug kingpin - she has no money to pay for a lawyer, for the travel costs of defence witnesses or even for essentials like food and water.

"She has co-operated fully with the Indonesian authorities but has been sentenced to death while the gang operating in the UK, Thailand and Indonesia remain free to target other vulnerable people.

"Lindsay must file an appeal within the next 14 days and it is vital that the British Government do everything possible to support Lindsay's appeal against the death sentence."

The Guardian reported that co-accused Julian Ponder also faces being executed if found guilty of playing a role in the smuggling scheme when his verdict is given on Wednesday. He is accused of receiving the drugs in Bali, but claimed he was trapped.

Amnesty told HuffPost UK that it was not unknown for judges in Indonesia to hand out heavier sentences than that requested by public prosecutors. "Further there has been increasing pressure on the judiciary to issue death sentences after recent criticism of the Supreme Court for overturning the death sentence of a drug lord last year.

"In Indonesia, death sentences may be overturned on appeal," a spokesman said.

She added: "Conditions in some Indonesian prisons fall short of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. There have been reports of overcrowding, poor sanitation, lack of sufficient food and clean drinking water and insufficient medical care."

Indonesia is by no means a country which regularly executes prisoners. In 2008, the government took a 14-month hiatus on executions, which ended when serial killer Ahmad Suradji was executed for the murder of 42 women.

In June 2008, the Constitutional Court reaffirmed its principle of the death penalty for drug trafficking, and executed two Nigerian traffickers, Samuel Iwachekwu Okoye and Hansen Anthony Nwaliosa.

They had been the first drug-related convictions in four years, where the sentence was carried out. Their execution coincided with International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.

In 2008, deputy attorney general A. H. Ritonga told the New York Times that death row inmates will only be executed "after their appeals are exhausted and their clemency bids rejected." Ritonga said.

Around 21% of countries still use the death penalty regularly. Indonesia is far down the league table of execution, with China having carried out over 1,000 in 2011, Iran 360, Saudi Arabia 81 and the United States 43.

Australian drug smugglers Tach Duc Thanh Nguyen, Matthew Norman and Si Yi Chen, members of the so-called 'Bali Nine' drug ring, sit inside a court room

Andrew Chan, Si Yi Chen, Michael Czugaj, Renae Lawrence, Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, Matthew Norman, Scott Rush, Martin Stephens and Myuran Sukumaran, all aged between 18 and 28 and from Queensland or New South Wales were all convicted, but most given life sentences.

Only Chan and Sukumaran were sentenced to death and still face the possibility of execution.

At the time of the sentencing, the-then Australian president John Howard said: "Can I just say to every young Australian, please take notice of this. I even beg them not to take the terrible risks that these young people have done – their lives destroyed in the case of two people.

"I feel desperately sorry for the parents of these people, I do ... but the warnings have been there for decades and how on earth any young Australian can be so stupid as to take the risk is completely beyond me."