Australian model goes on trial for drug trafficking in Bali

An Australian model accused of possessing ecstasy pills in Indonesia’s Bali resort island went on trial Friday and faces lengthy imprisonment if convicted.

Appearing before the Denpasar district court wearing a Muslim veil, Michelle Leslie heard prosecutors accusing her of possessing two ecstasy tablets during a police raid on a party in Bali’s Jimbaran area in August.

In their indictment, prosecutors said Leslie had “unlawfully possessed psychotropical drugs” in the form of ecstasy pills.

The trial was adjourned until next Tuesday.

Leslie’s lawyer Rizal Akbar said no defence argument would be made in the next court session because Leslie “wants this process to be speedy”.

If found guilty she could be jailed for up to 15 years under tough drug laws in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

Leslie said last month she had converted to Islam a year ago and that her new faith had prevented her from going “crazy” in her police cell in predominantly-Hindu Bali.

“It upsets me greatly that people think I am trying to manipulate the system,” she said.

“Religion is helping me stay centred in the present moment. You have to find something otherwise your mind just goes crazy.”

The 24-year-old, who is of mixed Australian-Philippine descent, had modelled lingerie and swimwear before her arrest.

Leslie is among 12 young Australians facing execution or long prison sentences in Indonesia for drug offences.

In a separate trial, judges rejected on Friday a plea to drop heroin smuggling charges against 29-year-old Australian Renae Lawrence.

Lawrence, who was caught red-handed at Bali airport with 2,1kg of heroin strapped to her legs and back in April, faces the death penalty if convicted.

The judges said prosecutors had prepared “complete, clear and diligent” charges against Lawrence. Her next court session is scheduled for November 11.

Lawrence is among nine Australians, dubbed the “Bali Nine,” on trial in the Denpasar court over the alleged attempt to smuggle a total of 11,2kg of heroin to Australia. They face the death penalty if convicted.

The arrests of the “Bali Nine” sparked controversy in Australia after it emerged that Australian police had tipped off their Indonesian counterparts, even though Canberra opposes the death sentence. – AFP

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