Monday 5 March 2012

Australian facing drug death penalty in Malaysia


AN AUSTRALIAN man is facing the death penalty after being arrested in Malaysia for allegedly trying to sell methamphetamine. Malaysian police have confirmed a West Australian man ''tentatively charged'' with trying to sell 225g of methamphetamine could be executed. Malaysian Police Narcotics Supt Nafisah Adam said today that a former Perth man, 32, was being held in custody, along with three local men. They were all arrested on Thursday over a string of alleged drug offences. Supt Nafisah said the Australian man had been caught with a large quantity of methamphetamine ''in his hands'' at a coffee shop in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. He added that a search of his nearby house had uncovered a ''smaller volume'' of drugs and led to the arrests of three local men. Under Malaysian law, a person convicted of possessing more than 50g of methamphetamine is declared a drug trafficker and faces a mandatory death sentence. Supt Nafisah said the arrests were part of an ongoing anti-drugs operation, and that the men had been under surveillance for some time before their arrests. ''It's part of a team of investigation that was carried out,'' she said. While the Australian and the other men had been ''tentatively charged'', official charges could follow chemical analysis of the seized substances. ''He is being held and tentatively we will charge him, but it depends on the contents of the substance on him,'' Supt Nafisah said. ''But I can say (if the drugs are confirmed), definitely he will be charged.'' Supt Nafisah said under Malaysian law, the men could be held in custody for up to 14 days without charge while police continued to investigate them. They are expected to initially appear in a magistrates court in Kuala Lumpur, but could be transferred to a higher court if serious charges are laid. ''If it's confirmed drugs, his case will be transferred to a higher court,'' Supt Nafisah said. ''Yes, they could face the death penalty if convicted.'' Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed today that the Australian man had been arrested on March 1. ''Malaysian authorities arrested a 32-year-old Australian man from Western Australia for allegedly selling methamphetamines,'' a DFAT spokesperson said in Canberra. ''Consular officials in Kuala Lumpur are seeking access in order to offer consular assistance to the man. ''It is possible that he will be charged with Trafficking in Dangerous Drugs, Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, which carries a mandatory death penalty upon conviction.'' The Australian's father was reported to have said he was unaware of his son's arrest and had not been able to contact him recently. It is believed that until six months ago, he had lived with his father in the southern Perth suburb of Success, but had then moved into an apartment in the central suburb of Mt Lawley. Malaysian police federal narcotics director Noor Rashid Ibrahim was reported as saying the Australian man intended to smuggle drugs back to Australia. Supt Nafisah said she was not aware if the man's father planned to travel to Malaysia to see his son. Malaysia has executed three Australians for drug offences in recent decades. Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers were hanged in July 1986, followed by Michael McAuliffe in June 1993. Asked about the case today, Acting Foreign Minister Craig Emerson declined to go into details. ''We will provide, as we always do, every consular assistance to every Australian citizen but beyond that, it would be wrong for me to speculate about the nature and causes of the apprehension of this man,'' Dr Emerson told reporters in Canberra. ''Let the justice system take its course.''