Bali 9 on trial

Facing the music ... Bali drug mule Michael Czugaj.
THE first of the Bali Nine who could face a firing squad if convicted of heroin trafficking begin the fight of their lives in the Denpasar District Court today.

Indonesian prosecutors are confident all nine Australians will be convicted and handed the death penalty at the end of a mammoth series of seven trials, opening in Bali today.

Four of the nine were arrested at Bali airport in April with between 1.3kg and 2.9kg of heroin allegedly strapped to their bodies as they prepared to board a Sydney-bound flight.

Alleged gang enforcer Andrew Chan was dragged off the plane with no drugs on him, and the other four were picked up at a hotel in Kuta on the Indonesian resort island.

Brisbane man Michael Czugaj and Sydney resident Myuran Sukumaran will be the first of the nine to face Denpasar District Court this morning.

Czugaj, 20, was among those taken into custody at Bali airport, allegedly with 1.75kg of heroin in three bags strapped to his body.

Sukumaran, 24, the alleged Bali Nine mastermind, was among those caught at the Melasti hotel in Kuta, allegedly preparing second drug shipment.

Prosecutor Putu Indriati believes all nine will be convicted and will eventually face a firing squad.

"For all of the Bali Nine, the maximum penalty is death," she said.

"We have a strong case to try them for organised crime."

Anxious relatives yesterday paid their last pre-trial visit to Denpasar's notorious Kerobokan prison where the accused have been held for several months.

Security is expected to be tight at the court for the seven trials, which are expected to last at least four months.

Bali Nine accused arrive at court
From correspondents in Denpasar - October 11, 2005

TWO of the so-called Bali Nine have arrived at a Denpasar court for the start of their trials for allegedly trafficking heroin.

Alleged drug gang ringleader Myuran Sukumaran, of Sydney, and Brisbane man Michael Czugaj were brought to Denpasar District Court this morning in a green prison van.

Together with several Indonesian drug accused, they were then taken to a holding cell to await the start of their separate trials on drug smuggling and drug possession charges.

Security was light as Mr Sukumaran, 24, dressed neatly in a white shirt and black trousers, was led through a crush of reporters and cameramen, looking irritated.

Mr Czugaj, 20, wore a baseball cap pulled low over his eyes and appeared distressed by the media throng.

Mr Czugaj is alleged to have been one of the drug mules, caught in April at Bali airport along with three other Australians with heroin taped to their bodies.

Mr Sukumaran, the alleged Bali Nine mastermind, was among those caught at the Melasti hotel in Kuta, allegedly preparing a second drug shipment.

The other seven members of the Bali nine will face court hearings this week.

All could face the death penalty if found guilty.

Trials adjourned for Bali nine pair
By Ian Munro, Denpasar - October 11, 2005 - 3:15PM

Unflustered ... Myuran Sukumaran.
The Bali nine trials opened in Denpasar today with prosecutors pointing to Andrew Chan, 24, of Sydney as the key figure behind the botched importation of 8.3 kilograms of heroin.

It was Chan who arranged the meetings of the group in Sydney and who distributed money and gave instructions to the other alleged conspirators, the prosecution said.

The case against Brisbane man Myuran Sukumaran and Michael Czugaj of Sydney has been adjourned for a week while defence lawyers prepare a response to today's allegations.

The court heard that Sukumaran assisted Chan in strapping bags of heroin to the legs and bodies of Renae Lawrence, Michael Czugaj, Martin Stephens and Scott Rush.

It was Chan who organised transport to the airport for the four drug mules and who was due to depart Bali on the same flight with them, the court heard.

The court was also told that Chan supplied money and a Nokia phone to Lawrence during the planning of the operation and instructed her to call an Australian contact codenamed "Pinoccio".

It also heard that the total quantity of heroin discovered was 8.292 kilograms.

The two accused men today were supported by family members.

Sukumaran's younger brother, who declined to give his name, sat behind the accused man. Flanked by consular officials, he looked overwhelmed.

Czugaj's mother, Vicki, was seated in the front row of the court behind her fresh-faced son. Mrs Czugaj was clearly nervous.

The two defendants appeared mainly impassive. Sukumaran was hustled forcefully in and out by the police, but was for the most part unflustered.

Czugaj was impassive and appeared pensive.

Bali 9 documents lay out alleged conspiracy

KERRY O'BRIEN: For the group of nine young Australians arrested in April and now facing heroin-smuggling charges, tomorrow marks the beginning of a chilling new chapter. The first of the trials start with alleged ringleader Myuran Sukumaran. The remaining eight will face their day in court soon after. The stakes are the highest imaginable. Police are seeking the death penalty for all nine defendants, basing their case on indictments, surveillance reports and interrogations. The 7.30 Report has gained access to those documents that lay out the alleged conspiracy as it was hatched and executed. Indonesia correspondent Tim Palmer reports.

TIM PALMER: This was the moment when it all fell apart. According to police in two countries, it marked the unravelling of a major drug enterprise, criminal big business. But to many Australians watching it all on television, the alleged conspirators with their young lives on the line seemed, more than anything, foolhardy beyond belief. It was the final episode in the passage to Indonesia of a group of young Australians who would become known simply as the Bali Nine.

JOHN NORTH, PRESIDENT, LAW COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA: It appears that the case against them could involve nine young Australians, maybe misguided, facing the death penalty and being pulled out into a park in Bali at night and shot.

TIM PALMER: Beginning tomorrow and for the coming month, the nine, mostly from unremarkable Australian suburban backgrounds, will fight to stay alive in an Indonesian justice system that paints them as wreckers of society. The documents setting out their journeys to Bali, the interviews with police, the records of surveillance teams tracking them, and the indictments to be read to court this week, have now been obtained by The 7.30 Report. These are the pieces of paper that could pave the way to the firing squad.

ADNAN WIRAWAN, LAWYER FOR MARTIN STEPHENS: All the foreigners that has been caught with this kind of items, none has escaped from death penalty. Except for, you know, Schapelle Corby.

TIM PALMER: A few of the nine knew each other from school, others more recently through low-paid jobs. It was here at two characterless hotels on the Hume Highway in Sydney's western suburbs that police say the whole group was cast into a plan that within weeks would bind their fates together. Both hotels were close to the Enfield home of the man Indonesian police would later finger as a ringleader, Andrew Chan. In the individual interrogations they faced from Bali police after their arrests, interviews record in these documents, a number of the alleged mules reportedly pick out Andrew Chan and his old school friend, Myuran Sukumaran as the organisers.

RECONSTRUCTION, BALINESE INTERROGATOR: Who paid for you to come to Bali?

ANSWER: Andrew Chan.

INTERROGATOR: Who asked you to come to Bali and then carry heroin to Sydney, Australia?

ANSWER: Andrew Chan.

EXCERPT FROM STATEMENT: "I was asked to do everything Andrew Chan said and also anything Myuran Sukumaran told me to do."

ADNAN WIRAWAN: To someone who is planning this situation, he's just a suitcase, you know, basically that's what they are. So he's just caught in a net, you know. They're after the big fish and he was just being caught in the net.

TIM PALMER: Andrew Chan was already flying to Bali when police allege the last details were being put in place back in Sydney. They say Myuran Sukumaran prepared the first group of mules. From Sydney's west, 18-year-old Matthew Norman and 20-year-old Si Yi Chen and two friends from the steel cities, 27-year-old Renae Lawrence from Newcastle and from Wollongong, 29-year-old Martin Stephens. Indonesian police say of the group, Renae Lawrence at least had made similar trips to Bali with Andrew Chan over the previous six months as a mule. In a carpark outside one of the hotels, Renae Lawrence was given spending money for her trip. Cash and a mobile phone.

EXCERPT FROM RENAE LAWRENCE'S STATEMENT: The money, $500, it was given to me by a person called Si Yi but the money was from Myuran Sukumaran."

TIM PALMER: A day before their departure at the Formula One Hotel, police say the tools of the smuggling trade were being stuffed into the bags of Renae Lawrence and Martin Stephens. Sealable plastic bags for the heroin, and to strap it to bodies, medical tape, elastic waist bands and skin tight bike shorts. Martin Stephens would later tell police he was threatened.

EXCERPT FROM MARTIN STEPHEN'S STATEMENT: I met Myuran Sukumaran before I left for Bali, and he told me to pretend I didn't know Si Yi Chen and Matthew Norman and try not to disobey any instruction, or my family and me would be killed.

TIM PALMER: The next morning, that first group of four left for the airport. Just down the road at Strathfield Spanish Inn Motor Lounge, Myuran Sukumaran was allegedly providing another group with $3,000 for tickets, although he's told police in Bali the allegations he handed over money are lies.

EXCERPT SUKUMARAN'S INTERROGATION (DRAMATISATION): No, I didn't do it. That statement is incorrect.

TIM PALMER: Police documents show the second group was the alleged operation's Brisbane arm. 27-year-old Tach Duc Nguyen, a two-time previous traveller to Bali and two fresh-faced former schoolmates, Scott Rush and Michael Czugai, both 19. Scott Rush would describe to Indonesian police meeting Tach Duc Nguyen.

EXCERPT FROM SCOTT RUSH'S STATEMENT: "My classmate in high school gave my mobile number to Tach Duc Nguyen, then he contacted me and told me to meet him in a pub in Fortitude Valley."

TIM PALMER: The police interview records detail instructions allegedly given by the organisers to the first group. Check in separately, to sit apart on the plane. Two days later, Myuran Sukumaran and his three mules would follow, and follow the same rules. Stepping into the Bali heat, the nine were also walking into a trap. This Indonesian police document details how the day they arrived, the Australian Federal Police sent a letter to Bali setting out a suspected plan and names of suspects, and asking for Indonesian police to help.

JOHN NORTH: Blind Freddy could see that in the Indonesian situation, these people would be charged and would face the death penalty.

TIM PALMER: The nine Australians split up, and spread themselves around the Kuta tourist strip. Unaware their attempts not to seem connected to each other already had little chance. Myuran Sukumaran headed for the most expensive of the Bali Nine's hotels - the Hard Rock, where Andrew Chan was already staying. And it was here that Indonesian police photographed the alleged ringleaders. But not everything went smoothly for the Indonesian police following the Australians. This may explain why police missed possibly the most critical incident in the whole alleged conspiracy. When Andrew Chan drove the 200 metres from the Hard Rock Hotel to the less salubrious Kuta Seaview Cottages, incredibly, police weren't watching. The indictment against Chan alleges that it was in room 114 that he met the intriguingly named Thai bar girl and alleged serial drug courier Cherry Likit Banacorn. She handed him a silver suitcase, allegedly filled with heroin. Chan agrees he collected the case, but says he went on Myuran Sukumaran's request and had no idea what was inside. For those allegedly further down in the conspiracy, these few days in the tropical sun were far more carefree. It was standard Bali fare - water sports, shopping and drinking. Even while relaxing by the pool in the Annika Hotel, Scott Rush and Michael Czugai were being filmed and photographed. When Andrew Chan went shopping, prosecutors say it was business, not pleasure. On the Kuta strip, it's alleged he picked out the now familiar shirts later worn by the alleged drug mules. And the indictment against him says he bought wooden artefacts to give to each courier. It appears in the hope that Australian customs would focus on those decoys and not on the bodies of the couriers. But at the last minute, prosecutors say there was a hitch. The heroin delivered wasn't what Chan expected, so he met Cherry Likit Banacorn again, picking up a second suitcase and amazingly the police again missed that transaction.

ADNAN WIRAWAN: I've been in criminal law for so many years. They always catch small fry, you know and letting the big guys escape, get away with the operations.

TIM PALMER: Two weeks after Andrew Chan first arrived in Bali, the final act in this tragedy was beginning. The alleged strapping operation centred on the Adhi Dharma Hotel. Some of the alleged mules say as they arrived, they were told to take a shower. Some were given the wooden figurines by Andrew Chan. Then the drugs, sprinkled with pepper, supposedly to deter sniffer dogs, were strapped to their bodies. The prosecution says if they'd made it to Sydney, the mules were to contact a person codenamed Pinocchio. Who knows what went through their minds during the taxi ride to Bali's airport? We only know what they've told police about their motivation.

EXCERPT FROM RENAE LAWRENCE'S STATEMENT: I was promised money, $15,000, by Andrew Chan. But afterwards I remembered I wasn't promised $15,000 by Andrew Chan. He only promised my family would be safe if I did it and that he'd pay for my holiday, and $500 for taxis and visas.

QUESTION: What were you going to use the money for if you succeeded?

ANSWER: Part of was going to do to my parents and I wanted to by a ute, some retread tyres.

TIM PALMER: Weeks later the four alleged couriers and Andrew Chan would be brought back to the airport for this grim reenactment of the moments when their futures were reduced to a question of life and death. The few carefree days in Kuta a long way behind them, their faces locked in fear and confusion. From this week, the nine will carry those same strained emotions on a painfully slow and potentially fatal journey through Bali's courts. Their young lives are now in the hands of the lawyers and judges. The first of those trials starts tomorrow.

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