Australian drug convict freed after 1 year in Bali prison

DENPASAR, Indonesia (AP) — An Australian man walked free from prison on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali on Saturday after serving one year for possession of cocaine in a nightclub.

Former Melbourne nightclub promoter William Cabantog and his fellow Australian David van Iersel were arrested last July in a police raid at the Lost City Club in the island’s trendy Canggu neighborhood with 1.12 grams (.04 ounces) of cocaine in the pocket of Cabantog’s jeans.

Police initially said that Cabantog, 37, who was described as a hospitality consultant, was well known for circulating cocaine in Canggu, where the nightclub was managed by Van Iersel, 39. But during the trial, the two men were able to convince the judges that the cocaine was only for their own use.

Cabantog was sentenced to 12 months and Van Iersel got nine months.

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Van Iersel was deported to Australia two days after being freed on April 21.

Cabantog, wearing a mask and a black T-shirt with a picture of a prisoner behind bars and words “Myuran hope,” was escorted Saturday through a crush of reporters outside the Kerobokan prison in Denpasar, the Bali provincial capital, into a waiting car. He made no comment.

Myuran Sukumaran and another Australian, Andrew Chan, were convicted as the ringleaders of the drug smuggler group dubbed the “Bali Nine” and executed by a firing squad in 2015, causing a diplomatic furor between often testy neighbors Indonesia and Australia.

The eight men and one woman were arrested in 2005 for attempting to smuggle 8.3 kilograms (18.3 pounds) of heroin from Bali to Australia.

The only woman in the group, Renae Lawrence, had been freed in 2018. Another member, Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, died from cancer in the same year, while five others had their sentences increased to life on appeal.

Yulius Sahruzah, the Kerobokan prison chief of warden, said Cabantog will be placed in a detention cell at the immigration office while waiting for a flight to Australia.

He said a stay in the immigration’s holding cell usually would be no more than one day, but Cabantog may stay longer because of reduced flights in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Indonesia has very strict drug laws and convicted traffickers are often executed by a firing squad. More than 150 people are on death row, mostly for drug crimes, and about a third of them are foreigners.

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