A living nightmare for a 14-year-old Australian boy caught in Bali with about $25 worth of marijuana is almost over, with the teenager set to return home next weekend.
The schoolboy, from Morisset Park near Newcastle in NSW, has been sentenced to two months in prison after a Denpasar District Court judge found him guilty of using an illegal substance.
Prosecutors had demanded a sentence of three months.
With time already served since his arrest taken into account, the teenager will be eligible for release on December 4, after which he will be deported to Australia unless either the prosecutor or the defence lodges an appeal.
The chief prosecutor, I Gusti Putu Atmaja, told AAP it was unlikely he would appeal the decision and confirmed the likely release date.
“He should be released on the 4th of December because he’s officially detained on 5th of October,” Mr Atmaja said.
The ruling was delivered on Friday in a makeshift courtroom, complete with SpongeBob SquarePants curtains, prepared especially for the Australian’s boy’s case which for the first time during the trial was opened to the media.
The boy, who was accompanied by his father, had his face obscured from cameras and other media by a number of bodyguards and pieces of cardboard held up to his face as the decision was handed down.
His lawyer Mohammad Rifan said consideration would be given to an appeal, which must be lodged within seven days.
Such a move is unlikely, however, given that it would mean the teenager would have to remain in Bali until the appeal process was completed and beyond when his sentence was due to expire.
The seven-day period before an appeal must be lodged also means the teenager will avoid a stint in Bali’s notorious Kerobokan Prison.
He will serve out the remainder of his sentence at an immigration detention centre in Jimbaran, about an hour’s drive from the court.
“It is disappointment from our side, but this is good decision by the judge because … if we accept it, he can (go) directly home (after) that time,” Mr Rifan said.
“(We) have the possibility if we appeal, the process will be more longer.”
Mr Rifan had called for the court to deal with the boy under article 128 of Indonesia’s narcotics laws, reserved for long-term drug users and addicts, and which would have seen him avoid a criminal conviction and undergo rehabilitation.
Earlier in the trial, documents including medical records and a report from the NSW Police were presented to the court to show the teenager was a long-term user of marijuana.
But the judge, Amser Simanjuntak, said the boy would have been required to complete the rehabilitation in Indonesia and not in Australia as requested by the teenager’s lawyers.
“Therefore, it’s better to give a jail sentence, but the shortest possible, which would enable him to be given back to his parents sooner,” Mr Simanjuntak said.
The teenager has been in custody since he was arrested on October 4 in possession of 3.6 grams of marijuana when police swooped on him and a 13-year-old friend after they emerged from a massage salon near Kuta Beach.
He was initially indicted on three charges, including one of possession which carries a maximum penalty of six years in prison for juveniles.
However, prosecutors opted instead to seek a conviction in relation to the “drug use” charge under article 127 of Indonesia’s tough harsh narcotics laws, which carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison but no minimum term.
The case attracted some high-profile attention in Australia and Indonesia with Prime Minister Julia Gillard speaking to the youth over the telephone in the days after his arrest, and discussing the matter with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd released a statement on Friday thanking Indonesian authorities for the “speedy way” the case had been conducted.
Mr Rudd said he welcomed the court’s decision.
“I’m sure there are lessons to be learned by this young man as well,” he said.
He also acknowledged Australian consular staff in Bali, who had given the boy and his family support throughout his trial.
“In overall terms, I think it’s good that this family and this young man, it looks like, will be home for Christmas,” he said.