October 8, 2005 - 5:39PM
When the father of one of the Bali Nine sought help from Australian Federal Police to stop his son committing a drug crime in Indonesia, he unwittingly triggered the arrest of the whole group, a lawyer said.
Fearing his son Scott would be arrested during a trip to Bali in mid-April, Lee Rush asked federal police to stop him leaving Australia, Scott's Indonesian lawyer Robert Kuana said.
However, instead of keeping a promise to intercept the Brisbane teenager, the AFP tipped off Indonesian authorities, who put him and eight co-accused under surveillance and arrested them red-handed on April 17, Kuana said.
They are facing the death penalty on charges of conspiring to export heroin from Bali to Sydney.
Scott was arrested at Denpasar airport along with three others allegedly carrying between 1.3 and 2.9kg of heroin strapped to their bodies as they prepared to board a Sydney-bound plane.
Accused gang enforcer Andrew Chan was arrested on board the plane with no drugs on him.
Another four, including the alleged ringleader, Sydney man Myuran Sukumaran, were arrested at a Kuta hotel.
The nine are scheduled to face Denpasar District Court next week in a series of seven separate trials.
Asked if Lee Rush's approach to the AFP led to the arrest of the whole group, Kuana said, "Yes. I think so, Yes."
He said Rush had a bad feeling about Scott's trip because of the recent arrest of several other Australians on drugs charges in Bali.
"He's trying to protect his son, what can he do? He call his lawyer," Kuana said after visiting Scott with his parents at Kerobokan jail.
The Rush's would not speak to journalists. News of their attempt to stop Scott leaving Australia has cast doubt on previous claims that the four alleged mules were innocent victims of a drug gang.
Lawyers for the four have claimed they tried to pull out of the operation but were threatened that their families would be killed if they did.
Kuana said Scott's parents sought AFP help in preventing his arrest after he disappeared for a week in early April.
During that time, a travel agent left a message on their answering machine that Scott's ticket to Bali was ready.
Alarmed that Scott was planning the trip without informing them, Lee Rush approached the AFP through a friend, lawyer Robert Meyers.
Meyers asked a friend in the drugs section of the AFP to help. The officer allegedly said he would warn Scott he was under surveillance, to deter him from committing any crime.
No warning ever came, Kuana said.
"The parents think there is no action from the Australian Federal Police to stop him ,even though they told police before Scott even picked up his plane ticket," Kuana said.
The AFP's controversial role in the group's arrest is now the basis of an application before the Federal Court in Darwin.
Scott and co-accused Renae Lawrence, 27 of Newcastle, have launched action against the AFP for alleged "denial of procedural fairness".
They claim the AFP provided assistance to Indonesian police that led to their arrest in Bali, exposing them to the death penalty.
Under a treaty between Indonesia and Australia, such assistance was illegal, they claim.
Kuana said he hoped the Bali judges would consider the Federal Court application when hearing Scott's case.
However, Lawrence's lawyer Haposan Sihombing said he would probably object if prosecutors tried to present the application as evidence in relation to defence claims that the four accused were unwitting couriers.
In order for Bali prosecutors to call Lee Rush as a possible witness, they would have to show the court that they had new, relevant evidence.
"We can say that there is no chance of new witnesses," Sihombing said.
"If they try to call Scott's father, we can object." Prosecutors were not available for comment.
AFP border and international national manager Frank Prendergast has defended the conduct of officials.
"The AFP can confirm that it became aware of contact made by the family of Scott Rush to a Queensland police officer after the commencement of an Indonesian national police investigation in Bali," Mr Prendergast said in a statement.
"During the course of investigations relating to the disruption of a drug importation syndicate and the arrest of individuals allegedly involved, the AFP acted appropriately at all times and in accordance with legal and police regulations."
Mr Prendergast said international cooperation between law enforcement agencies was essential in combating transnational crime.
"If Australia was only to work cooperatively with countries that have identical judicial systems to ours the AFP would not be able to effectively combat transnational crimes such as drug trafficking, people smuggling, terrorism and child sex tourism," he said.