Contrasts as Bali 9 face fate
By Mark Forbes and Ian Munro - Denpasar - October 12, 2005

The "babe" and the "beast": Michael Czugaj and Myuran Sukumaran — the first of the Bali nine to face trial, are led to separate hearings yesterday. Photo: Jason South

The contrast between the two defendants was palpable. They looked like the babe and the beast.

Michael Czugaj appeared younger than his 20 years, seeming to have shrunk inside a large white shirt, nervously fiddling with his tie as he sat before three judges to hear his indictment for heroin smuggling.

The imposing Myuran Sukumaran, 24, was shepherded into his courtroom, 40 metres away, enveloped in a policeman's bear hug.

The pair — the alleged ringleader and the allegedly naive young pack-mule — are the first of nine young Australians facing drug charges to go on trial for their lives.

Sukumaran stared intently at a list of charges — exporting heroin, conspiracy and possession — his shaved head bulging out of his white shirt with a large scar in the back of his neck protruding above the open collar. He did not acknowledge his younger brother, Chimturon, who had flown from Australia for the case, and remained impassive throughout the two-hour hearing.

In a nearby court Czugaj's mother, Vicki, had been anxiously awaiting his appearance for an hour.

The formal process that could see all of the Bali nine put in front of a firing squad was about to begin.

Mrs Czugaj sat nervously, playing with a small key chain of the Virgin Mary. "I just wanted to give him something religious," she said.

She brought her hand to her mouth on hearing the police sirens accompanying the bus from Bali's Kerobokan jail and burst into tears.

Czugaj ran the waiting media gauntlet in a baseball cap, sunglasses and with his collar turned up, while Sukumaran strode through, staring blankly ahead.

In the muggy heat of Denpasar's Supreme Court complex, both hearings began with the usual court protocols and prosecutors reading the lengthy indictments, mapping out the plan to smuggle nearly nine kilograms of heroin into Australia.

According to the prosecution, it was Sukumaran who helped recruit Czugaj in Brisbane. It was he who helped tape packages of heroin totalling almost eight kilograms to the four drug mules arrested at Bali airport — Czugaj, Scott Rush, 19, Renae Lawrence, 28, and Martin Stephens, 29.

And it was Sukumaran who allegedly warned Czugaj and the "mules" that they and their families would be killed if they did not follow instructions.

But while it was Sukumaran and Czugaj who faced the judges yesterday, it was another alleged ringleader, Andrew Chan of Sydney, who emerged as the key organiser of the botched heroin smuggling operation.

Sukumaran's prosecutor, Olopan Nainggolan, said it was Chan, 21, who arranged the early meetings in Sydney to plan the importation, who booked the airline tickets and hotels for the group, and who cancelled their return trip on April 14 because he had insufficient heroin.

Mr Nainggolan said it was Chan who, on April 15, met the group's heroin supplier, Cerry Likit Banakhorn, at the Hotel Seaview in Kuta, and was given a black suitcase containing heroin.

And it was Chan who, several days earlier, had bought blue floral shirts for Lawrence, Stephens and Matthew Norman, 18, he said.

The shirts were oversized to conceal the heroin packages that were strapped to the mules' backs, Mr Nainggolan said.

Sukumaran, whose arrest on April 17 coincided with his 24th birthday, initially appeared flustered as he faced the court yesterday. He had little role in proceedings other than to confirm that he was well and to indicate that he understood the trial process.

Over in a second court, Czugaj, facing similar charges, sat as prosecutors detailed much the same story. The court was told that Czugaj was introduced to Sukumaran in Sydney on April 6 this year, with his school friend Rush.

Sukumaran gave them $3000 for transport and accommodation and they flew to Denpasar two days later. They were promised another $5000 on their return.

The prosecutor said Sukumaran told Czugaj, Rush, Lawrence and Stephens that when they arrived in Australia there were to contact a person known to Sukumaran as "Pinocchio".

The group was loaded up with more than 7.9 kilograms of heroin strapped to their legs and their backs. Czugaj carried 1.75kg, Rush 1.69kg, Lawrence 2.16kg and Stephens 2.34kg.

Chan allegedly ordered taxis for the four and travelled to the airport in a separate taxi.

A further 334 grams of heroin, scissors and tape were found with the second group of defendants — Tach Duc Thanh Nguyen, 23, of Brisbane, Si Yi Chen, 20, of Sydney, and Norman — who were arrested with Sukumaran at the Melasti Beach Hotel.

All told, the operation involved almost 8.3 kilograms of heroin.

As the hearings progressed, Australian consular staff surrounded the relatives of Sukumaran and Czugaj, interpreters whispering translations throughout the morning. Lee and Christine Rush, parents of Scott, attended to show support for Mrs Czugaj. Mr Rush appeared transfixed on every word.

One of Sukumaran's lawyers, Agus Saputra, asked for two weeks to prepare his response to the indictment but was told by Judge Gusti Lanang Dauh to be ready next Tuesday.

Czugaj's lawyer, Frams Passar, said he was confident his client would be acquitted. "My client is an innocent victim, I have the proof of that," he said.

The trials of the remaining Bali accused begin later this week.

Drug trials open for 'Bali 9'
12 October 2005

DICING WITH DEATH: Michael Czugaj from Brisbane is led into a Denpasar courtroom as the trials of nine young Australians accused of drug trafficking begin. If convicted, they may face the death penalty. Reuters
DENPASAR: A court on Bali opened the first trials of nine young Australians facing possible death sentences for trafficking heroin.

Dubbed the "Bali 9" by Australian media, the eight men and one woman were arrested in April with more than 8.2kg of heroin, most of it seized at Bali airport following a 10-week operation involving Australian and Indonesian police.

The first two to take the dock were one of the alleged masterminds of the operation, Myuran Sukumaran, 24, and accused mule Michael William Czugaj, 20.

Sukumaran looked calm but Czugaj appeared nervous, listening intently to the proceeding through a translator.

Prosecutor Olopan Nainggolan told the court that Sukumaran, of Sydney, was one of the planners of the operation along with another arrested Australian, Andrew Chan.

Sukumaran had helped strap heroin on to the bodies of Czugaj and three others, Nainggolan told the court.

"On March 30, 2005, the defendant met Andrew Chan and another person at the Roseland Shopping Centre in Sydney where they planned the transfer of heroin from Bali to Australia," Nainggolan said.

Sukumaran was arrested at a hotel on Bali's famous Kuta Beach. Chan was arrested on the plane before it left.

All four couriers were picked up at Bali's international airport before their flight left for Australia.

Another prosecutor, David Adji, said Czugaj had heroin in packages strapped around his waste and both thighs at the hotel.

"After that, he left with (the other three alleged mules) to the airport for a flight to Australia," Adji said.

The trials of the other seven are all expected to begin this week. All face the maximum penalty of death.

Indonesian police have vowed to crack down on illegal drugs on the island, which they have said has become a hub for international narcotics distribution.

Courts in Bali have delivered a string of tough sentences against foreigners convicted on drugs charges. They include Australian woman Schapelle Corby, sentenced to 20 years in jail in May after being found guilty of smuggling marijuana.

Adjournments, delays mar Bali 9 trials
ACCUSED Bali Nine drug runner Martin Stephens said today he had thought a lot about the events that could earn him the death penalty.

Stephens, 29, from Wollongong, was passed sandwiches and water by his mother Michelle and brother Kevin as he waited in stifling heat in a holding cell at Denpasar District Court in Bali.

His separate trial was due to start this morning but was delayed as judges met to discuss his case.

In a courtroom nearby, the joint trial of three of his alleged fellow drug gang members got under way and was adjourned about an hour later.

Stephens, together with Matthew Norman, 19, and Si Yi Chen, 20, both from Sydney, and Brisbane man Tach Duc Thanh Nguyen, 27, all faced the death penalty for alleged heroin trafficking and possession.

The court was told Norman, Chen and Nguyen, arrested together at Kuta's Melasti Hotel, were "neat and secretive" as they planned their alleged drug smuggling operation.

Nearby, as Stephens fanned himself by the doors of his holding cell, he was asked if he was still thinking about the events leading to the nine's arrest in Denpasar in April, as they allegedly planned to ship heroin to Australia.

"Yeah, a lot," replied Stephens, who was allegedly caught with heroin strapped to his body.

Stephens said he passed the time in prison yesterday making fellow inmate and Bali Nine member Renae Lawrence a 28th birthday card and said he was also trying to learn Indonesian from police and prison guards.

"I'm trying," he said with a smile, before being cut off by court officials.

"If I keep talking to them, you send them away," he joked to a senior guard.

Stephens' trial was still expected to get under way today.

All four who appeared today had arrived in a green prison van, with Chen and Nguyen handcuffed together and dressed identically in black pants and white shirts.

Stephens and Norman were right behind them, also handcuffed together.


More Bali Nine accused in court
There was not even time to hug his parents as the youngest of the Bali Nine, Matthew Norman, began his legal fight to avoid an Indonesian firing squad.

Norman, 19, from Sydney, could only make brief eye contact with his mother and father as he was led into Denpasar District Court to face heroin trafficking charges.

Later, after the hour-long hearing finished, he was stopped from approaching his parents by a prosecutor who shepherded him out of the courtroom.

Martin Stephens was more fortunate.

The 29-year-old from Wollongong kissed his mother Michelle through the bars of a holding cell, and inside court clasped her hand and hugged her for reassurance.

Norman and Stephens were among four of the nine Australians whose trials for drug smuggling began on Wednesday, and could end with the death penalty.

Stephens appeared alone, accused of being a drug mule in the failed drug smuggling operation which ended with the nine's arrest in Bali in April.

Norman is being tried with alleged cohorts Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, 27, from Brisbane, and Sydney man Si Yi Chen, 20.

The baby-faced Norman, who turned 19 in Bali's Kerobokan prison, was the only one of the three on Wednesday to have relatives present.

His father Michael Norman said he would stay in Bali for as long as the trial lasted.

"I'll be here for the duration," he said.

"By the end of it, I think you'll see how wrong the media has been about the whole situation."

His forehead creased with worry, Michael Norman later sat in court next to ex-wife Robyn, who rested her chin on her fist as she scanned the three judges faces.

Norman, Chen and Nguyen bowed their heads and followed an English transcript as prosecutors read out the indictment, accusing them of conspiring to export around 8kg of heroin to Sydney.

Earlier, arriving in court, a sullen Norman was handcuffed to accused fellow drug mule Stephens, who also went on trial on Wednesday.

As Stephens waited in a steamy holding cell for his trial to begin, the former Wollongong bartender practised Indonesian while reading from a local newspaper.

Moving to the cell door to search for cooler air, he told reporters he regretted taking part in the ill-fated operation.

Asked if he still thought about his arrest, Stephens said: "Yeah, a lot".

Stephens said he was finding the humidity hard to cope with and even a brief visit by his mother Michelle to pass on water and sandwiches failed to break his mood.

Still, Stephens managed a smile as he spoke of his efforts to learn the language and making a birthday card in for fellow accused Renae Lawrence.

Inside court Stephens hugged his mother Michelle and embraced his brother Kevin.

Both family members sat stony-faced as prosecutors alleged gang enforcer Andrew Chan coaxed Stephens into the smuggling operation with the promise of an overseas trip to Bali.

The court heard both Chan and fellow ringleader Myuran Sukumaran strapped three packets of heroin weighing more than 2.3 kilograms of heroin to Stephens' legs and back.

Stephens' defence lawyer Adnan Wirawan promised a challenge to the "incomplete and careless" prosecution evidence.

He said his client was "a human suitcase" and "a simple man" who had taken the promise of a holiday at face value, not fully understanding what it could mean.

"He is not educated. He did it for the money," he told AAP later.

Norman, Chen and Nguyen were arrested at a Kuta hotel along with Sukumaran.

Lawyers for the three said they would object to allegations they were part of an organised smuggling ring, and would press for them to tried for possession, which carries a maximum penalty of ten years jail.

Accused "godfather" Andrew Chan and Brisbane youth Scott Rush, 19, go on trial separately on Thursday, followed by Lawrence, the lone female in the group, on Friday.

©AAP 2005

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