Bali marijuana arrest of Australian teen invokes memories of Corby, Bali Nine


Balinese guards stop tourists from leaving a hotel in Bali's world-famous Kuta beach district as the Indonesian holiday island shut down for a day of silence to mark Nyepi, the Hindu new year on March 5, 2011.


Sonny Tumbelaka

The arrest in Bali of an Australian teenager, Lewis Mason, 14, after he allegedly bought a small quantity of marijuana has caused a collective intake of breath Down Under.

(GlobalPost reports: Australian boy arrested in Bali over marijuna

The reason? Australians teenagers held on drug charges by the Indonesian authorities — who have a vastly different standard of justice when it comes to such matters — haven't had a great run of success lately.

The tough nature of the Indonesian justice system has led to life — and death — sentences being passed against 10 Australians since 2004.

The most high-profile case is that of Schapelle Corby, sentenced to 20 years in an Indonesian jail for the importation of 9.3 pounds (4.2 kilograms) of marijuana into Bali in 2004.

The other nine were involved in the so-called Bali Nine heroin trafficking syndicate, caught by Indonesian police in Bali in 2005 on a tip-off from the Australian Federal Police.

(Down Under reports: Australian "Bali Nine" heroin smuggler loses appeal)

As a result of death sentences passed against four (three were commuted to life in prison on appeal), Australia — which doesn't support capital punishment — put in place measures to prevent the police from putting Australian lives at risk when co-operating with overseas authorities.

The Bali Nine were aged between 18 and 28 at the time of their arrests.

There has been some speculation that the teenager currently being held in Bali by Indonesian police was a victim of a police sting operation, the ABC reports.

Mason was on holiday with his family, who are from Newcastle in the state of New South Wales.

He was arrested at the luxury resort town of Legian on Tuesday allegedly carrying 3.6 grams of cannabis.

Mason reportedly told police he bought the pot for 250,000 rupiah (about $30) because he felt sorry for the dealer, who complained he had not eaten for a day.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd said the Australian authorities were negotiating with Indonesian officials to try to bring the boy home, however would be "no quick fix," the ABC reports.

He said he felt bad for Mason's parents and has told the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to make securing the boy's early release a priority.

"I think if you put yourself in the position of being a mum or a dad with a 14-year-old who's got themselves caught up in this situation, your heart would go out to the parents," Rudd said, according to the Australian Associated Press. "I'm sure many Australians feel the same and we'll do all within our power to support them and get this young fella back home."

AAP quoted a lawyer for Mason, Mohammad Rifan, as saying the boy was "angry, crying" and depressed.

He said he could be charged under provisions for juveniles, in which case the maximum penalty would be six years.

Under Indonesian law, there is no juvenile justice system, meaning Mason would likely end up in Bali's Kerobokan — a "desperately overcrowded" jail, according to the Canberra Times, "where murderers and rapists, including infamous child rapist Mochamad Davis Suharto — also known as Codet or Scar — are doing time."

Schapelle Corby and the Bali Nine are also incarcerated at Kerobokan.