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Australian Mafia Arrested Over Drug Smuggling

DENPASAR, Indonesia (Reuters) - Three Australians were jailed for life on Wednesday for their roles in a heroin smuggling ring on Indonesia's Bali island, the last in a series of tough verdicts against a group of nine young Australians.

The so-called "Bali Nine" were arrested on the famous resort island last April for attempting to smuggle more than 8.2 kg (18 lb) of heroin from Indonesia to their home country.

The Denpasar District Court sentenced Tach Duc Thanh Nguyen, Si Yi Chen and Matthew Norman, who sat together as the verdicts were read out. They were arrested at a Bali hotel, where quantities of heroin, scales and other equipment were found.

On Tuesday the court sentenced two organisers of the smuggling ring to die by firing squad. Australian Prime Minister John Howard has said those punishments should serve as a warning to other young Australians not to take "stupid" risks.

"These defendants have been proven legally and convincingly guilty of a narcotics crime in the illegal export of class one drugs," chief judge Istiningsih Rahayu told the court.

Nguyen, in his mid-20s, is from Brisbane. Chen, 20, and Norman, 19, are from Sydney. The sentences matched what prosecutors had demanded.

Norman, the youngest of the nine Australians, looked tense and his face reddened when the verdict was read. His two co-defendants appeared more relaxed.

It was unclear if they would appeal.

The court earlier this week also sentenced four drug couriers to life in jail. They were detained at Bali's airport with packages of heroin strapped to their bodies.


Judge Rahayu said while the last three defendants were not caught trying to smuggle the heroin out of Bali, they were willing participants in the operation.

The verdicts against the eight men and one woman have highlighted Indonesia's zero tolerance for drug offences.

Howard on Wednesday said that his close ties with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono would be of no help to the two Australians sentenced to die, Andrew Chan, 22 and Myuran Sukumaran, 24, both from Sydney.

Howard told Australian radio he was close friends with Yudhoyono and would continue to work hard to maintain the close ties between Australia and Indonesia. Australia does not have capital punishment.

"But when it comes to the crunch, his obligation to his own people and to the strength of the domestic campaign against drugs is far greater and more important than his closeness to, and his friendship with, me and so it ought to be," Howard said.

Howard has said Australia would make a plea for clemency to Indonesia on behalf of the two on death row once appeals were completed.

Around 20 foreigners, most of them Africans, are on death row in Indonesia for drug offences. The latest foreigners shot by firing squad for drug offences were two Thais in October 2004. They had sat on death row for eight years.

The final stage of an appeal allows inmates on death row to seek clemency from the president.

The same court jailed Australian woman Schapelle Corby for 20 years last May after she was found guilty of smuggling marijuana.

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