Indonesia set to free Bali Nine drug smuggler Lawrence

Renae Lawrence was arrested in 2005 when authorities caught her with 2.6 kilograms of heroin strapped to her body as she tried to fly out of the international airport on the holiday island of Bali. (AFP)
Updated 21 November 2018
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Indonesia set to free Bali Nine drug smuggler Lawrence

  • ‘Renae Lawrence is in a healthy condition. She seems to be happy, but also a bit nervous’
  • It is likely that Lawrence will be deported shortly after her release
BANGLI, Indonesia: The first member of the “Bali Nine” heroin-trafficking gang to be released from prison is expected to leave jail on Wednesday after serving 13 years, in a case that caused a huge diplomatic rift between Indonesia and Australia.
Renae Lawrence, 41, the only female member of the group, was arrested in 2005 when authorities caught her with 2.6 kilograms of heroin strapped to her body as she tried to fly out of the international airport on the holiday island of Bali.
She was initially handed a life term, but her sentence was later reduced to 20 years and then further cut due to good behavior.
It was not immediately clear what time she would be released from Bali’s Bangli prison, but officials said she may be freed around midday (0400 GMT).
“Renae Lawrence is in a healthy condition. She seems to be happy, but also a bit nervous,” head of Bangli prison Made Suwendra said.
It is likely that Lawrence will be deported shortly after her release.
The Australian Police Commissioner for the state of New South Wales, Mick Fuller, told The Australian newspaper there were two outstanding arrest warrants for Lawrence and that they will speak to her when she returns to the country.
Reports in Australian media said Lawrence could face arrest once she is back home over a high-speed chase involving a stolen vehicle dating back to just before she was arrested in Indonesia.
Of the nine in the original group, ringleaders Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were executed by firing squad in 2015, sparking a diplomatic row between Australia and Indonesia, which has some of the world’s strictest drug laws including the death penalty.
Another member, Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, died in prison in June from stomach cancer, while the remaining five are currently serving life sentences.
Some critics have lashed out at the Australian police for tipping off their Indonesian counterparts about the gang and putting its members at risk of execution in Indonesia.
High-profile cases like that of Australian Schapelle Corby, who spent more than nine years behind bars for smuggling marijuana into Bali, have stoked concern that Indonesia is becoming a destination for trafficked drugs.
Corby was deported in 2017 after several years of parole.


7-year-old immigrant girl dies after Border Patrol arrest

Updated 29 min 56 sec ago
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7-year-old immigrant girl dies after Border Patrol arrest

  • Immigrants, attorneys and activists have long raised issues with the conditions of Border Patrol holding cells
  • The death of the 7-year-old comes after a toddler died in May just after being released from an ICE family detention facility in Texas

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico: A 7-year-old girl who crossed the US-Mexico border with her father last week died after being taken into the custody of the US Border Patrol, federal immigration authorities confirmed Thursday.
The Washington Post reports the girl died of dehydration and shock more than eight hours after she was arrested by agents near Lordsburg, New Mexico. The girl was from Guatemala and was traveling with a group of 163 people who approached agents to turn themselves in on Dec. 6.
It’s unknown what happened to the girl during the eight hours before she started having seizures and was flown to an El Paso hospital.
In a statement, Customs and Border Protection said the girl had not eaten or consumed water in several days.
The agency did not provide The Associated Press with the statement it gave to the Post, despite repeated requests.
Processing 163 immigrants in one night could have posed challenges for the agency, whose detention facilities are meant to be temporary and don’t usually fit that many people.
When a Border Patrol agent arrests someone, that person gets processed at a facility but usually spends no more than 72 hours in custody before they are either transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement or, if they’re Mexican, quickly deported home.
The girl’s death raises questions about whether border agents knew she was ill and whether she was fed anything or given anything to drink during the eight-plus hours she was in custody.
Immigrants, attorneys and activists have long raised issues with the conditions of Border Patrol holding cells. In Tucson, an ongoing lawsuit claims holding cells are filthy, extremely cold and lacking basic necessities such as blankets. A judge overseeing that lawsuit has ordered the agency’s Tucson Sector, which patrols much of the Arizona-Mexico border, to provide blankets and mats to sleep on and to continually turn over surveillance footage from inside the cells.
The Border Patrol has seen an increasing trend of large groups of immigrants, many with young children, walking up to agents and turning themselves in. Most are Central American and say they are fleeing violence. They turn themselves in instead of trying to circumvent authorities, many with plans to apply for asylum.
Agents in Arizona see groups of over 100 people on a regular basis, sometimes including infants and toddlers.
Arresting such groups poses logistical problems for agents who have to wait on transport vans that are equipped with baby seats to take them to processing facilities, some which are at least half hour north of the border.
The death of the 7-year-old comes after a toddler died in May just after being released from an ICE family detention facility in Texas, and as the administration of Donald Trump attempts to ban people from asking for asylum if they crossed the border illegally. A federal appeals court has temporarily blocked that ban, but the administration asked the US Supreme Court to reinstate it Tuesday.
Cynthia Pompa, advocacy manager for the ACLU Border Rights Center, said migrant deaths increased last year even as the number of border crossing dropped.
“This tragedy represents the worst possible outcome when people, including children, are held in inhumane conditions. Lack of accountability, and a culture of cruelty within CBP have exacerbated policies that lead to migrant deaths,” Pompa said.