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Australian teen accused of pot possession in Indonesia

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 10:43 AM EDT, Tue October 11, 2011
Journalists gather at a police station in Bali where a 14-year-old Australian boy was reportedly held for possesing cannabis.
Journalists gather at a police station in Bali where a 14-year-old Australian boy was reportedly held for possesing cannabis.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The teen's attorneys are trying to help him avoid prison
  • He was arrested last week, police say
  • Australian officials say they're working to get the boy home

(CNN) -- An attorney for a 14-year-old Australian, accused of marijuana possession in Indonesia, is hoping to avoid a prison sentence for his client and have the boy released to undergo drug rehabilitation.

The teen, whose name has not been publicly released, could face a minimum of four years in prison, according to Bali police. The teen has been held since his arrest last week in Bali's Kuta street area.

"We are still investigating on his involvement for carrying, using and having the narcotics," said Bali police spokesman Hariadi, who, like many Indonesians, uses only one name.

Indonesia's drug laws are among the strictest in the world. But they do have a provision, article 128, under which those arrested with small amounts of drugs can be released to rehabilitation if they can prove they are an addict. In the case of underage offenders, that requires a declaration from the youth's parents, officials said.

Mulyadi, superintendent of Bali's police drug squad, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that the teen will be dealt with under the law applying to minors needing treatment for a drug problem. His parents would have to ensure he completes rehabilitation, Mulyadi said, and if they fail to report regularly they could face jail time.

Michael Tene, spokesman for Indonesia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Friday that the nation's policy on drug offenses is clear. "I believe everybody should know by now that illegal drugs in Indonesia will face a really severe penalty," he said.

The boy's attorney, Mohammad Rifan, said that he and the Australian Embassy are concerned about the junior high school student's rights as a juvenile.

Greg Moriarty, Australia's ambassador to Indonesia, met with Mulyadi for nearly an hour Monday, the ABC reported, and spoke to the youth for a second time.

"We've talked to the Indonesian authorities about the range of issues, with our primary focus being the welfare of this boy and his family," Moriarty told the ABC.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard spoke to the teenager on the phone, the ABC said. Gillard's office told the network that she offered reassurance to the youth, who was on holiday with his parents in Bali when arrested.

However, Julie Bishop, deputy opposition leader, accused both Gillard and Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd of competing for media attention over the case.

-- Journalist Meidyana Rayana contributed to this report.

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