RELATIVES of an Australian man jailed two years ago in South America are
asking why the Federal Government is not trying to bring him home. Plans to
speed up a prisoner-transfer treaty with Indonesia were being prepared last
week in the days before Schapelle Corby was convicted of drug trafficking
in Bali and sentenced to 20 years in jail. Only three Australian prisoners
have been transferred home since a program started in 1997. Australian
prisoners overseas, including Corby, are not eligible to be transferred
back to Australia until they are sentenced and their appeals completed. But
the family of Stephen John Sutton say that their brother must come home
because he is in severe pain and there is no one on hand to take care of him.
Sutton, 41, of Lithgow, was arrested in Argentina in February 2003 in a
joint operation with the Australian Federal Police to crack down on cocaine
trading. Three other Australians have already been arrested and given jail
terms of 10 to 13 years in the Australian courts. Meanwhile, Sutton is
still awaiting trial in Argentina.
His brother, Allen, was bitter about the lack of government attention his
brother had received compared with Corby.
"They are on about getting Schapelle back here. (Stephen) has been over
there for over two years and hasn't even been to court."
A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said Mr Sutton's case
had been delayed because he was arrested as part of a syndicate.
"We understand evidence is still being collected," the spokeswoman said.
Consular staff had visited him nine times. Mr Sutton, a pensioner, said he
was concerned about his brother's health because few necessities were
supplied by Argentinian authorities. Sutton had had a brain tumour when he
was young and was still enduring the effects of a recent back injury, his
brother said. There are 155 Australians in prisons overseas, but only those
who are locked up in one of 56 countries that have signed an international
convention for prisoner transfers may apply to be transferred home.