Australian teen could face jail in Indonesia for drug charges

Two Australians are currently on death row in Bali's Kerobokan prison, with six others serving life sentences.

Story highlights

  • The teen, accused of marijuana posession, has been detained since his October 4 arrest
  • He was on vacation with his parents in Bali
  • The teen could be sent to rehabilitation instead of jail
  • Indonesia has strict drug laws, with some crimes punishable by death
A 14-year-old Australian boy accused of marijuana possession could face jail time on the resort island of Bali.
With his face covered in a black mask, the teenager was mobbed by the media as he entered a local court complex for the first day of his trial Tuesday.
Earlier, prosecutor Gusti Gede Putu Atmaja said the judge would not wear his usual robe to try to minimize stress on the boy. The trial is closed to the public.
The Australian teen -- whose name has not been publicly released -- faces three charges under Indonesia's stringent narcotics laws.
The most serious charge of possession, under article 111, carries a sentence of up to six years. The teen is also charged with drug use under article 127, which could result in a maximum sentence of four years.
The least serious charge, under article 128, relates to drug use by minors and takes into account a person's history of drug use. This charge does not hold criminal liability and could send the teen to rehabilitation instead of jail.
"We are optimistic, and we hope that we will get the result we want -- that he be returned to his parents and avoids jail time," said the teen's lawyer, Mohammad Rifan.
But the prosecutor stressed that article 128 stipulates a minor's parents should report the drug use to Indonesian authorities. Any actions taken by his guardians in his home country are not recognized in Indonesia.
If the teen does face a jail sentence, "The sentence may be as short as a few months," Atmaja said.
The boy could also receive credit for time served.
The prosecution presented two witnesses at the trial Tuesday.
Rifan, the defense attorney, said he expects a quick decision in the trial, with twice-weekly court hearings that could end by mid-November.
"The boy was under stress from the media attention but was otherwise in relatively good condition during the court hearing," Rifan said.
The teen's next court appearance is scheduled for Friday.
The teen has been detained since his October 4 arrest, after allegedly buying 3.6 grams of cannabis off the streets. He was on vacation with his parents in Bali, a popular tourist destination for many Australians.
He was initially detained at a police headquarters but was recently moved to an immigration detention center.
Australian officials and the teen's lawyer lobbied intensively to have him released, but prosecutors announced last week that the minor would stand trial.
Indonesia anti-drugs laws are considered strict. Visitors to the country are warned, upon arrival, that some drug crimes carry a maximum penalty of death.
Still, many have been arrested and convicted for various drug offenses. Two Australians are on death row in Bali's Kerobokan prison. Six other Australians are serving life sentences.