|Lindsay Sandiford is escorted by Indonesian customs officers in Bali after her arrest in May last year for cocaine smuggling.|
An Indonesian court has sentenced a 56-year-old British grandmother to death for smuggling cocaine into the resort island of Bali.
“We found Lindsay Sandiford convincingly and legally guilty for importing narcotics... and sentenced the defendant to death,” judge Amser Simanjuntak told Denpasar district court.
Sandiford was arrested at Bali's international airport last May with 4.79 kilograms of cocaine stashed in her suitcase. Police have said she then helped mount a sting to net three Britons and an Indian on drugs charges.
The harsh sentence came as a surprise after prosecutors last month recommended Sandiford serve only 15 years in jail, saying she deserved leniency as she had admitted her crime and behaved politely in court.
However, another judge on the panel, Bagus Komang Wijaya Adi, said today “there are no mitigating circumstances” to allow for leniency in the case.
“All evidence was incriminating against the defendant,” he said.
Indonesia enforces stiff penalties against drug trafficking, with penalties of death and life imprisonment.
Mrs Sandiford was heard to cry in anguish from under her beige-coloured sarong, marked with a traditional Balinese pattern, as the sentence was passed.
She also wept and declined to speak to reporters on her way back to prison.
Mrs Sandiford had hoped she would be spared execution, the usual sentence for trafficking this amount of drugs, because of her age and for her co-operation with authorities on the holiday isle.
'We object to the sentence. We never expected that our client would get the death penalty,' her lawyer Esra Karokaro said.
She had claimed she was coerced into the crime because her children were threatened.
But in its verdict, a judge panel headed by Amser Simanjuntak concluded that Sandiford has damaged the image of Bali as a tourism destination and weakened the government's fight against drugs.
'We found no reason to lighten her sentence,' he said.
A spokeswoman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “We can confirm that a British national is facing the death penalty in Indonesia.
'We remain in close contact with that national and continue to provide consular assistance.
'The UK remains strongly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances.'
Behind the scenes the Government is said to being cautious about its protests and fears 'going in all guns blazing' could make her situation even worse.
Sandiford will appeal within the next 14 days and her hopes of escaping the firing squad now depend on a series of legal challenges and, finally, with a plea for mercy to the president if all her legal channels become exhausted.
There are around 114 prisoners on death row in Indonesia, at least 40 of them foreigners, most of them convicted of drug crimes. Several are Australians.
Five foreigners have been executed since 1998, all for drug crimes but there have been no executions in the country since 2008, when 10 people were put to death.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has granted clemency to four drug offenders on death row since he took office in 2004.