Briton faces verdict over Bali drug ring

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iol pic wld bali -drugs -gran REUTERS Lindsay Sandiford (R) of Britain, accompanied by her translator, reacts as she listens to the judge during a trial in Denpasar at the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

Denpasar, Indonesia -

A British man accused of involvement in a drugs trafficking ring on the Indonesian resort island of Bali faces a verdict and sentence on cocaine possession charges on Tuesday.

Julian Ponder, 43, is linked with Lindsay Sandiford, a British grandmother who was condemned to death last week for her part in what authorities described as a “huge international syndicate”.

Ponder was arrested after receiving a package from Sandiford in a police sting operation mounted after she was caught with five kilos of cocaine hidden in her suitcase on a flight from Bangkok to Bali in May.

He was initially also accused of trafficking over the $2.4 million drugs haul, but earlier in January prosecutors dropped the smuggling charge, a serious offence punishable by death in Indonesia.

Ponder, from Brighton in England, now only faces a charge over possession of 23.04 grams of cocaine found in the bedroom of his luxury Bali villa.

Under Indonesian law, penalty for possession ranges from at least five years in prison to life sentence.

Prosecutors have recommended a seven-year jail sentence but the judges are not obliged to follow that recommendation. In Sandiford's case, judges sentenced her to death despite the prosecutors' recommendation of a 15-year jail term.

Two other Britons in connection with the drug trafficking ring received light sentences in December.

Rachel Dougall, with whom Ponder had a six-year-old daughter, was sentenced to one year in jail for failing to report Sandiford's crime and Paul Beales received four years for possession of 3.6 grams of hashish.

Like Ponder, both were cleared of drug trafficking.

Sandiford, 56, was sentenced last Tuesday to death by firing squad. The authorities said she was at the centre of the drugs ring but she argued that she was coerced and faced threats that her children would be harmed.

Sandiford is appealing against the sentence. British rights group Reprieve said on Sunday that she is also suing the British government for allegedly failing to support her appeal against her death penalty. - Sapa-AFP

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