MATARAM, Indonesia: An Indonesian court sentenced Frenchman Felix Dorfin to death for drug smuggling on Monday (May 20), in a shock verdict after prosecutors asked for a 20-year jail term.
Dorfin, 35, was arrested in September carrying a suitcase filled with about 3kg of drugs including ecstasy and amphetamines at the airport in Lombok, a holiday island next to Bali where foreigners are routinely arrested on drugs charges.
Indonesia has some of the world’s strictest drug laws – including death by firing squad for some drug traffickers and it has executed foreigners in the past.
While prosecutors had not asked for the death penalty, Indonesian courts have been known to go beyond their demands.
“After finding Felix Dorfin legally and convincingly guilty of importing narcotics … (he) is sentenced to the death penalty,” presiding judge Isnurul Syamsul Arif told the court.
He cited Dorfin’s involvement in an international drug syndicate and the amount of drugs in his possession as aggravating factors.
“The defendant’s actions could potentially do damage to the younger generation,” Arif added.
The Frenchman made headlines in January when he escaped from a police detention centre and spent nearly two weeks on the run before he was captured.
A female police officer was arrested for allegedly helping Dorfin escape from jail in exchange for money.
It was not clear if the jailbreak played any role in Monday’s stiffer-than-expected sentence.
Dorfin, who is from Bethune in northern France, sat impassively through much of the hearing in front of three judges, as a translator scribbled notes beside him.
He said little as he walked past reporters to a holding cell after the sentencing.
“Dorfin was shocked,” the Frenchman’s lawyer Deny Nur Indra told AFP.
“He didn’t expect this at all because prosecutors only asked for 20 years.”
The lawyer said he would appeal against the sentence, describing his client as a “victim” who did not know the exact contents of what he was carrying.
“If he had known, he wouldn’t have brought it here,” Indra added.
In 2015, Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran – the accused ringleaders of the Bali Nine heroin smuggling gang – were executed by firing squad in Indonesia.
The case sparked diplomatic outrage and a call to abolish the death penalty.
The Bali Nine gang’s only female member was released from jail last year, while some others remain in prison.
A number of foreigners in Indonesia are on death row including cocaine-smuggling British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford and Serge Atlaoui, a Frenchman who has been on death row since 2007.
Last year, eight Taiwanese drug smugglers were sentenced to death by an Indonesian court after being caught with around a tonne of crystal methamphetamine.