Australian man goes on trial in Indonesia for alleged drug possession on Bali

DENPASAR, Indonesia (AP) — A court on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali on Thursday began the trial of an Australian man who faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted of possessing methamphetamine under the country's tough drug laws.

Troy Andrew Smith, from Port Lincoln in South Australia, was arrested on April 30 after police raided his hotel near Kuta beach, a popular tourist spot, and seized 3.15 grams (0.1 ounce) of crystal methamphetamine from his room, authorities said.

The arrest followed a tip that Smith had received a suspicious package containing toothpaste by mail from Australia.

Prosecutors at the District Court in Denpasar, Bali's provincial capital, said he violated anti-narcotics laws that carry a penalty of up to 12 years in prison and a fine of 8 billion rupiah ($491,000).

Authorities reduced the initial charge of drug trafficking, which carries a possible death penalty, to the less serious charge of drug use after a police drug assessment team determined he was a drug user.

The 49-year-old accountant confessed to using drugs since 2020 to stop drinking alcohol, and denied being a dealer, lead prosecutor Isa Ulinnuha said.

“He was not involved in illicit narcotics trafficking, but was a narcotics abuser in the moderate category,” Ulinnuha told the court. “Therefore, we also recommend that he undergo a psychological evaluation and inpatient medical rehabilitation for at least six months in a government rehabilitation facility.”

After the charges against Smith were read, the panel of three judges adjourned the trial until June 20.

Smith’s lawyer, Ida Bagus Gumilang Galih Sakti, said he would seek to prove that Smith is a user, not a trafficker, and has no connection with any drug network.

He said his client is nervous and depressed as he faces trial.

“I’m trying to make him calm down and make him understand that he will get rehabilitation so he can return to his family as soon as possible,” he said.

Indonesia has very strict drug laws and convicted traffickers can be executed by a firing squad. More than 150 people are on death row, mostly for drug crimes, and about a third of them are foreigners.

Eighteen people convicted of drug-related offenses have been executed under current President Joko Widodo, who took office in 2014.

Firdia Lisnawati, The Associated Press