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Aussie boy, family wept as sentence requested

Published: 5:08PM Saturday November 12, 2011 Source: AAP

An Australian boy and his family are devastated and in shock after prosecutors demanded a jail term of three months for the 14-year-old, who was allegedly caught in Bali last month with a small amount of marijuana.

The sentence, which was approved by the attorney-general's department in Jakarta, would take into account time already served since the teenager's arrest on October 4.

But if it is accepted by the judge, the schoolboy, from Morisset Park near Newcastle, will spend Christmas incarcerated in Bali.

The judge, Amser Simanjuntak, confirmed the sentence request as he emerged from the hearing at the Denpasar District Court on Friday but refused to offer any indication of his verdict, which he said would be delivered on November 25.

Under Indonesian law, the judge has the power to reject the request tendered by prosecutors but can also impose a heavier penalty.

It comes as a heavy blow to the boy's legal team, which even on Friday morning was optimistic prosecutors would seek a more lenient option and ask that the boy be ordered to undertake rehabilitation.

The development also presents an uncomfortable issue for Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to deal with when she arrives in Bali next week for the East Asia Summit, at the conclusion of which she will meet Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The teenager and his parents wept as the female deputy prosecutor, Srigati, read out the sentence request in a makeshift courtroom on the second floor of the administration wing of the court compound.

"All shocked today. The family, the lawyers, the child protection (agency). All shocked today," the boy's lawyer Mohammad Rifan said after the hearing.

Rifan had asked that the boy be dealt with under article 128 of Indonesia's narcotics laws, reserved for long-term drug users, which would have allowed him to escape a criminal conviction and instead enter into rehabilitation and possibly return to Australia immediately after the trial.

The chief prosecutor, I Gusti Gede Putu Atmaja, denied that speculation earlier this week that the boy's family had signed a media deal worth $A350,000 to tell their story had affected the sentence request.

"No. We are not affected by such things. That's their business," he said.

The speculation about the deal had prompted criticism in Australia and Indonesia and raised suggestions the teenager's chances of a lighter sentence would be damaged.

But Atmaja said more than two weeks ago that the sentence request would be in terms of "months, not years", which would support his comments after the hearing on Friday.

While prosecutors accepted that the boy should be considered an addict, they opted instead for article 127, which also relates to "drug use" but carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison for juveniles but no minimum term.

As she read out the sentence request, Srigati also told the court Indonesia's tough anti-drugs stance must be respected, but that the boy's age was also taken into account as a leniency factor.

The teenager, who was on holidays with his family when he was arrested, had also been indicted on a possession charge, which carries a maximum term of six years in prison for juveniles.

He was allegedly caught with 3.6 grams of marijuana when police swooped on him and a 13-year-old friend outside a supermarket near Kuta Beach on October 4.

The boy is expected to remain in custody at an immigration detention centre in Jimbaran, about an hour's drive from the court, until the verdict is delivered.

It remains unclear where he will be held if the judge accepts the prosecution's request.

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