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Main charge against Australian model dropped in Bali

Australian model Michelle Leslie (C) is escorted by an Indonesian court official as she arrives at the court compound in Denpasar on the Indonesian resort Island of Bali November 15, 2005. REUTERS/Bagus Othman
DENPASAR, Indonesia (Reuters) - Prosecutors on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on Tuesday dropped their main charge against an Australian model caught with the party drug ecstasy, meaning she will do little jail time if convicted.

Michelle Leslie had faced a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail for ecstasy possession. However, prosecutors said they were dropping that charge to use an alternate one which carries a maximum three-month term for receiving ecstasy as a user.

"The defendant Michelle Leslie has been proven legally and convincingly guilty of committing ... offences as a user," state prosecutor Risman Tarihoran told the court in requesting the three-month term be imposed.

Tarihoran said the main charge was dropped because Leslie's case did not properly fit the definition of possession under Indonesian law.

He did not elaborate, but possession carries a tougher term because it applies to recreational use. Being a user can mean people might need prescription drugs to treat medical conditions but a penalty is applied if they are obtained illegally.

Leslie's lawyer, Christo Dugis, said his client had a letter from a doctor in Australia that said she needed to take psychoactive drugs.

The Adelaide-born Leslie, who modelled under the name Michelle Lee, has told police the pills were not hers and were put in her bag by someone else.

The judge adjourned the trial until Friday.

Leslie is one of numerous Australians facing drugs charges in Indonesia. She was arrested on August 20 after police searched her bag before a party on Bali and found two ecstasy tablets.

Media reports have said Leslie, in her mid-20s, converted to Islam after she was arrested, and court documents had identified her as Muslim.

Another Australian woman, Schapelle Corby, was sentenced to 20 years in prison in May for smuggling 4.2 kg (9.259 lb) of marijuana into Bali from her home country. That term was cut on appeal to 15 years.

Nine other Australians are also on trial in Bali on charges of trying to smuggle heroin from the island to Australia. They face the maximum penalty of death.

Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

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