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3,000 Australians in Indonesia receive government drugs email

Jakarta Post, August 27, 2005

SYDNEY (AFP): Thousands of Australians living in Indonesia have been sent an email from their government warning them against using or trafficking drugs, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said on Friday.

The unprecedented email, which was sent by the embassy in Jakarta to more than 3,000 citizens, follows a string of arrests of Australians on drug charges in Indonesia.

The email warns Australians "about the dangers of being in possession of, or trafficking in, drugs," Downer said.

Downer said while the government kept in touch with the Australian community in several countries via email, it had "never really felt it necessary to send out an email with such a blatantly obvious message on it."

"I just think it is important that we continue to remind people -- no matter how obvious I would have thought it was to them -- that being caught in possession of drugs in Indonesia carries with it very heavy jail terms and caught trafficking in drugs can even bring the death penalty," he told reporters.

"I think we can't do enough to continue to remind people of that."

Twelve young Australians face execution or long prison sentences in Indonesia for drug offenses, including two people arrested last week. Model Michelle Leslie, 24, faces up to 15 years in jail if convicted of possessing two ecstasy tablets while teacher Graham Clifford Payne, 20, is facing 10 years on heroin charges.

In May, former beauty student Schapelle Corby, 28, was jailed for 20 years for smuggling marijuana from Australia to Bali.

Downer said the email was a reminder that Indonesia, along with other Southeast Asian countries, had severe penalties for people caught with illegal substances.

"I think that some people think that they can just get away with it, that they won't get caught, it won't happen to them," he said.

"But they need to remember the Indonesians are putting a lot of energy into cracking down on drugs in Indonesia, they are making a major effort.

"So are a number of other governments in South East Asia."