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Singapore drug dealer death sentence lifted

German Wolfgang Bohl (L), the father of Julia Bohl and her lawyer Michael Eu (R) leave the court relieved.
German Wolfgang Bohl (L), the father of Julia Bohl and her lawyer Michael Eu (R) leave the court relieved.  

Staff and wires

SINGAPORE -- A German woman convicted for drug trafficking in Singapore will no longer face the death penalty.

Julia Bohl, 23, was charged for carrying over 600 grams of cannabis two weeks ago. Under Singapore law, facing the gallows is mandatory for trafficking 500 grams or more.

However, a chemist's analysis revealed that the block of vegetable matter she was carrying only contained 281 grams, leaving Bohl still facing up to 20 years in prison.

If convicted on that charge, she would have become only the second Westerner in Singapore to face execution for a drug-related crime.

Thursday's case has again brought the Lion city's severe policy of hanging convicted drug dealers into the international spotlight.

Accused of belonging to a drugs ring that supplied bars and nightclubs in Singapore, Bohl was initially charged with trafficking 687 grams (24 ounces) of marijuana, an amount for which the death sentence is mandatory.

Yet the public prosecutor told the court on Thursday that the charge against Bohl and three alleged Singaporean accomplices was being reduced from the hanging offence.

However, 12 fresh charges were brought against Bohl during the hearing, including drug trafficking, consumption, possession, and the possession of utensils for drug use.

Bohl was also charged with three other alleged accomplices -- Sunaiza Binte Hamzah, 22, Hamdan Mohamad, 33, and Mahdi Ibrahim Bamadhaj, 21.

All four now face minimum sentences of between five and 20 years if convicted of three lesser trafficking charges.

Standing handcuffed in front of the judge, clad in the same clothes she wore in her previous court appearance, Bohl seemed calm if not grim-faced as the revised charges were read out to her.

"We are very relieved. We thank all the people that have been hoping with us and still hope with us," Bohl's father, Wolfgang, said outside the courts.

Passport impounded, bail offered

Prosecutors asked for the unemployed Bohl's passport to be impounded and set bail at $82,420 (S$150,000). Bail was previously not granted as she was facing capital punishment.

Bohl's divorced parents, accompanied by a small entourage of embassy officials and friends were relieved and at times pressed their hands together in prayer and hugged themselves for comfort as they waited for the case to be heard.

The case has attracted wide media interest in Germany and German and local television crews flocked around Bohl's parents and the lawyer as they emerged from the court.

Singapore has hanged at least 340 people -- most for drug offences -- since 1975, when the death penalty became mandatory for drug traffickers and murderers.

Authorities say that the city-state's low crime rate and stability are due to its tough attitude toward crime.

In August 1994, Dutchman Johannes Van Damme became the first Westerner to hang for drug offences in Singapore, despite pleas for clemency from the Dutch government and Holland's Queen Beatrix.

Van Damme was caught in 1991 at Singapore's Changi Airport with about 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds) of heroin in his suitcase.




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