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08 September 2006

The Law vs. The Law of Supply and Demand; capital punishment poster boys and girls

Australian Scott Rush, then 19, in a holding cell in Bali, Indonesia last year. (Sydney Morning Herald / Australian Associated Press photo.)

As long as courts in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore -- whose airports are the nearest and cheapest to Australia on the Asian heroin route -- sentence drug smugglers to death (and often go all the way and execute them), this story will predictably keep recurring several times a year. Only the names of the Australians sentenced to death will change.

Like the USA, capital punishment in Australia is largely a state-by-state legislative matter, but one by one every Australian state abolished the death penalty in the last half of the 20th century. The last person Australia executed was Ronald Ryan in 1967. Though the death penalty for murder was abolished in New South Wales in 1955, NSW was the last state to completely abolish the death penalty when in 1985 capital punishment was abolished for treason and piracy. (Facts filched from here where there's more interesting stuff about capital punishment.)

This story will keep recurring because Australia has tens of thousands of heroin addicts and recreational users willing to pay enough to make heroin smuggling a hugely profitable (and untaxed) enterprise. The Law may be the Law, and the Law may imagine that all citizens except a few sociopathic Pirates and Evil Villains will respect and obey the Law.

But they won't and they don't, they never did and they never will. Market economics trumps all law. When buyers want any commodity badly enough to pay enough to make trade profitable, sellers will always find a way to supply the commodity. Some "mules" are unwitting, and smugglers hide drugs in their luggage. (That seems to have been the case with a Canadian woman whom Vietnam executed a few years ago.)

But most mules are willing smugglers, poor people, addicts, students on holiday, lured by a promise of a windfall of cash if they don't get caught. Meanwhile, smuggling takes place against a background paid professional police informants, and mules often arrive at their destination with the police all waiting for them with names, photos, luggage locations.

There's a huge fictional and fact-based movie literature about capital punishment, and a large subsection about young Western people getting the Bright Idea to smuggle drugs home from a Third World country. Though many of these movies do well at the box office ("pretty young innocent women in prison" movies have been very popular since the Silent era), most of them suffer from a deep problem: The hero or heroine is a greedy idiot or a real creep, and the audience has a big problem giving a flying fuck about what happens to them at the end. Even movies about naive young women who fell hopelessly under the hypnotic love spell of an evil male villain have trouble engaging the audience's sympathy (or credibility).

I recommend "Brokedown Palace" with Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale in a Thai prison as an interesting study in the Cinema of "Who Cares?" They're young, they're beautiful, they're Caucasian, they've been to college, they suffer the hopeless torments of hell from a brutal, corrupt and unjust Third-World system -- and who really gives a flying fuck? As you watch their tragedies, you feel more and more resentment toward these dumb twinkies as they yank 101 minutes of undeserved sympathy from you.

If you're not a sympathetic person to start with, excessive fishing for sympathy from strangers can yield exactly the opposite: resentment, the pleasure of seeing an unsympathetic moron get it in the tolchoks. That's the thing about desperately begging for sympathy -- people prefer to give it when they feel it's deserved.

And what goes on in the box office also applies to politics. Only the rough-and-tumble democratic politics of Australia has the slightest chance of saving the lives of these condemned Australian smugglers. If the votes and public demand are there, the Australian government can diplomatically horse-trade with its economically intertwined neighbors Indonesia or Malaysia, and save the odd Ozzie from the hangman.

But if the Australian public yawns at the busted smuggler's plight, and even yawns at the pleas from the prisoner's distraught parents, Australia's leaders just go through the motions, make a routine public statement of regret, and let the condemned man or woman just twist in the wind.

Everywhere in the world that still executes human beings, the politics of the Death Penalty regularly have to rise or fall on the television images and tabloid stories of who these people were and what they're convicted of having done.

It should be all about the Act of Capital Punishment itself -- America's big t-shirt that loudly tells the world "We're Crazy and Bloodthirsty!"

But it's not just about the Act. An awful lot of it is about the Actors. And they're often a very hard bunch to ask people to love and try to save.

If all appeals fail, Scott Rush faces an Indonesian firing squad.


The Australian (national broadsheet / Murdoch)
Saturday 9 September 2006

Bali mule begs
for Canberra support

Stephen Fitzpatrick, Jakarta correspondent, in Bali

HEROIN mule Scott Rush has made an impassioned plea from Bali's Kerobokan jail for "more support" from the Australian Government as he fights a death sentence handed down this week from Jakarta.

In a hand-written letter given to his Indonesian lawyer yesterday, Rush said it was "unbelievable and outrageous" that the Indonesian court system had "given the participants to the Bali bombings less time than they have given to me."

Three men were sentenced this week to between eight and 18 years' jail for peripheral roles in the attacks on October 1 last year that killed 23 people, including four Australians.

Rush's lawyer Robert Khuana said his client had asked him to have the statement published on a website maintained by his parents, Lee and Christine Rush, in Brisbane.

The website, found at

[Actually A-VP couldn't find it, but we found
this very thorough, interesting and passionate site]

is an attempt to drum up money and public support as Rush, who was arrested at Denpasar airport last year with almost 1.7 kilograms (3.75 pounds) of heroin strapped to his body, tries to depict himself as "only a victim of an organised syndicate."

The heroin was to be smuggled to Australia, where it is estimated it could have fetched A$500,000 (U$380,000) on the street.

Rush's statement said he felt he was "the victim of a vicious judicial system that looks upon me as one of the organisers or one of the terrorists."

Rush was sentenced in the Denpasar District Court last year to life imprisonment, a punishment that stood on appeal in the Bali High Court.

However, Mr Khuana said he had high hopes the latest appeal decision, in the Indonesian Supreme Court, could be overturned in a judicial review that re-examines the case and potentially produces a new verdict.

Rush's statement does not specify what kind of support he hopes for from the Government, but suggests that with it "more doorways and opportunities could be opened."

He is not shying away from creating opportunities of his own, with the website offering silver jewelry for sale and details of a trust account for supporters to deposit money via an Australian bank or alternatively through the Paypal internet payment service.

- 30 -

© The Australian


Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
22 April 2005

Lawyer: why arrest them in Bali?

Political undertones may have been at play when nine Australians were arrested in Bali on drug trafficking charges, a prominent criminal lawyer said today.

Rob Stary, a criminal lawyer of 25 years and head of Robert Stary and Associates, said the question had to be asked as to why the nine were intercepted in Indonesia when the intended destination of the drugs was Australia.

"There's certainly a school of thought that says that there's a political aspect to that process," he said.

Indonesian police arrested the nine Australians, eight men and one woman, on Sunday, allegedly finding a total of 11.25 kilograms of heroin.

"I find it extraordinary that, if the intended destination of the drugs was to Australia, why it is that they were intercepted in Indonesia and not in Australia," Mr Stary told ABC radio.

"At least by intercepting them here, intelligence could have been gained in terms of understanding the network distribution in this country, by trying to identify who, higher up in the chain, is responsible for importation.

"It's completely inconceivable that the nine people that have been arrested are the only nine people involved."

"There's plenty of speculation that perhaps these young people are sacrificial lambs in that - in terms of a new-found relationship between Australian and Indonesian authorities - the Indonesians can accept the kudos for the interception, rather than the Australians."

He suggested a possible connection to the case of Australian Schapelle Corby, who is facing a jail sentence of up to a life term, for allegedly carrying 4.1 kilograms (9 pounds) of marijuana into Bali.

"Dare I say it, although people have not said there's any association or link with the Corby case, well, there may well be," Mr Stary said.

"There's enormous pressure, publicly, in Australia that Ms Corby, if she's found guilty of her alleged offence, that she not receive the death penalty.

"It's much more palatable to suggest that people who have been involved in large-scale, commercial importation of heroin, a much more deadly narcotic, be subject to the death penalty.

"That may be seen to be the quid pro quo."

- 30 -

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Part of the series on Australian criminals

Bank robbers
Drug traffickers
Serial killers

Scott Anthony Rush is a former Australian labourer from Chelmer, Queensland, a western suburb of Brisbane, arrested on April 17, 2005 at Ngurah Rai Airport in Bali, Indonesia with heroin weighing 1.3 kg taped to his legs under his clothing. It was Rush's first trip to Bali. Rush was 19 at the time of his arrest. He is currently studying the Indonesian language.

On February 13, 2006, Rush, who appeared in court for sentencing wearing a wooden crucifix around his neck, was sentenced to life imprisonment [1] Rush appealed this sentence, and on September 6, 2006, his sentence was upgraded to the death penalty. [2]

Earlier life

During his schooling years, Rush was expelled from Brisbane's St Laurence's College during his Year 10 studies relating to a drug-related incident. Rush was using cannabis at the age of 15 and has also used heroin, ecstasy and prescription drugs. A report compiled by the Queensland Community Corrections Department stated "Rush's drug choice is amphetamines. He first began using amphetamines three years ago at the age of 17. He stated that his method of use has always been intravenous."

During December 2004 Rush pleaded guilty at the Inala Magistrates' Court to 16 offences including drug possession, fraud, theft and drink-driving. A warrant for his arrest in Australia is currently outstanding relating to AUD$4796.95 stolen from the Commonwealth Bank [3].

Arrest in Indonesia

On April 17, 2005, Scott Rush was arrested by Indonesian police and found to be carrying 1.3kg of heroin strapped to his legs underneath his clothing. Three other Australians were also apprehended, and another, Andrew Chan, was arrested whilst seated on a plane waiting to depart.

Later, four Australians were arrested in raids in Kuta.

Criminal trial

Fellow accused and friend, Michael Czugaj has testified he travelled to Bali with Rush. Czugaj alleges Rush introduced him to Tach Duc Thanh Nguyen, also facing trial, whilst socialising in Brisbane. Czugaj states Nguyen offered them both a free holiday to Bali. When asked why he chose to travel to Bali on a paid holiday, Rush replied "Basically we got the response that he (Nguyen) didn't have anyone to come to Bali with him". Nguyen has refused to testify. Czugaj confirmed Rush's account of events as being true [4].

Czugaj testified he and Rush had never met fellow accused Renae Lawrence or Martin Stephens, both of New South Wales until they were all arrested together at Ngurah Rai Airport, and has accused fellow suspect Andrew Chan of strapping the heroin to his body whilst wearing rubber gloves. Rush told the court Chan told him "You do as I say, don't mess around with me. I've got a gun with me and I could kill you. If I wanted to, I could kill you right now" [5]. Chan has protested his innocence, saying before the court, "A lot of lies have been set against me, but the true reality is I'm not what people put me out to be. I've never threatened anybody in my life" [6].

During court proceedings, Rush initially refused to handle strapping material admitted as evidence, saying "No no," before agreeing to handle the evidence after being urged by the judge. [7]

On February 13, 2006, Rush was sentenced to life imprisonment. Family friend, Neil Urquhart, was quoted in response to the life sentence imposed on Rush,

"We know he's guilty of it, but you know in Australia, the sentencing is totally different. All right, so he's in a different country and I suppose by rights, you should obey the laws of the country and you've got to accept what they say. But it's a bit harsh." [8]

On September 5, 2006, it was reported in several Australian newspapers that Rush and three of the other Bali Nine had been sentenced to death upon appealing their original sentences. This was later confirmed as being true.

Criticisms of Australian Federal Police tipoff

Rush's father, Lee Rush, said he contacted the Australian Federal Police in April 2005 fearing his son was travelling to Bali and would commit a drug related crime. Lee Rush claims then to have received assurances from the AFP that they would tell his son he was under surveillance to dissuade him from going through with the crime. Scott Rush's lawyers said he was never contacted.

Rush has brought an action in the Federal Court of Australia in Darwin against the AFP for breach of the bilateral treaty between Indonesia and Australia when information was handed by the AFP to the Indonesians. Such information should only be released by the Attorney-General. However, the Commonwealth Government maintains that the treaty only applies after a suspect is charged [9]. The application was dismissed by the Federal Court in January, 2006.

During February 2006, Rush's parents gave an interview to Australian Broadcasting Commission television program, Australian Story, speaking out against Australian Federal Police actions.

"I was informed at 1.30 in the morning that Scott would be spoken to and asked not to board the flight to Bali. It wasn't until about mid-morning that I received a call from Bob and a distressed tone in his voice he said, 'Mate, we could not stop him, they have let him go through and he's on his way to Bali'. Under no circumstances do I condone the trafficking of drugs -- I particularly dislike drugs of any nature, always have. When I received a call from the Australian Government authorities that Scott had been detained in Indonesia for attempting to export heroin, I was speechless, sickened to the gut."

Rush's mother, Christine Rush, also spoke of her disappointment with the Australian Federal Police. "I feel very let down by our Australian Federal Police -- we tried to lawfully stop our son leaving the country, it wasn't done." [10].

The interview aired on ABC's Australian Story on February 13, 2006.

Prison life

Rush is serving his term of imprisonment in Indonesia. He receives AUD$125 per month under a prisoner loan scheme from the Australian Federal Government. Rush is accommodated in a single cell, and has access to a mobile phone [11].

* List of Australians in international prisons
* List of Australian criminals
* List of famous drug smugglers

Wikinews has news related to:
Bali Nine refused access to federal police files

* Taxes pay for Bali Nine mule
* Lawrence, Rush set to appeal life sentences, Australian Broadcasting Commission, February 14, 2006
* Rush parents silent on record
* Rush committed 16 crimes: report, Sydney Morning Herald, February 14, 2006
* Bali mule's drug past revealed
* Bali Nine's Rush gets life, The Australian, February 13, 2006
* Rush family claim AFP assisted Indonesian authorities, Australian Broadcasting Commission, February 13, 2006
* Bali accused's family speak of anger at AFP, Australian Broadcasting Commission, February 13, 2006
* Rush's parents break their silence, Herald Sun, February 13, 2006
* Father 'tried to stop Bali 9 trip'
* Lawyers seek charges to extradite Bali nine
* Bali Nine death warning
* Rush re-enacts drug smuggling in court
* Smuggle or die, Bali Nine 'told'
* Rush testifies against Lawrence in Bali Nine trial
* Bali accused Rush tells of heroin strapping
* Prosecuters seek life for Rush

Bali Nine
Andrew Chan | Si Yi Chen | Michael Czugaj | Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen | Matthew Norman
Renae Lawrence | Scott Rush | Martin Stephens | Myuran Sukumaran

Categories: 1986 births | Australian drug traffickers | Indonesian prisoners and detainees | Living people | People from Brisbane | Prisoners sentenced to death

* This page was last modified 10:43, 7 September 2006.
* All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. (See Copyrights for details.)
Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.


Anonymous said...

I think these young people recognise that, having done the crime, they must do the time - what is upsetting many Australians though is that the Australian Federal Police, in direct contradiction of the Government’s stated policy to not extradite anyone to a country where the death sentence applies, chose to effectively send them to their deaths.

Legal sophists can argue that the Bali Nine were not being extradited, that they chose to travel to Indonesia - but that is fudging the issue, especially as the AFP had been contacted by Scott Rush’s father and been asked to intervene before they left Australia. The AFP then proceeded to contact the Indonesian police to say when the group would arrive, and where.
Many Australians now feel that there is no point in trusting official policies of the Government while they are welded to their one and only aim, which is to curry favour with Indonesia.

Vleeptron Dude said...

Hmmm I am re-thinking my position on capital punishment. You wrote one of the most thoughtful, informed, interesting Comments Vleeptron's ever received, and you're ANONYMOUS!!! NO LINK!!!

Listen, Anonymous, I've been to Oz and I smell Oz on your typing fingers. "favour" -- you're an Ozzie. You're Vleeptron's first and only Human-On-The-Ground in Australia, and you're ANONYMOUS!

Vleeptron is simultaneously outraged and grateful.

Yes, the really saddest and most miserable part of the Scott Rush story is that when his father desperately sought help to stop his son from his fool's errand, he called his own police force. That's what they teach kids in D.A.R.E. class -- when drugs are involved, The Policeman Is Your Friend, call a cop.

Anonymous, Vleeptron really wishes you'd say more. About this, about why you're interested in this, about *anything* about Australia and its neighbo(u)rs.

Don't make Vleeptron bring back capital punishment for Anonymous Driveby Comments.

joan said...

The Australians held up in Bali Prison is often on my mind..The australian govt is a heartless machine - the intelligence received by scott rush's father made the investigation easy..they should have caught these kids at an Aust. airport..we see the head of the melb drug squad who was masterminding much larger quantities of smack and on going directly into melb...convicted of 7 years and he will do 3 years. this is the norm in our courts and what Australians expect for this level of criminal activity. These kids need our support and we must display our wrath through the Australian Federal Govt/Police.

Vleeptron Dude said...

Thanks very much for the comment, Joan.

Uhhh ... you had a link, it led to a blog, there's nothing there. So like ... you're an Ozzie, right? Where do you live? What do you do? Student? What about the Australian drug prisoners in Indonesia has grabbed your heart and sympathy? What else are Australians doing to help?

I'm sort of curious why the Howard government doesn't make a big push about this issue -- particularly since it was the Australian Federal Police that got them into their fix. What's the Howard government getting from not coming to the diplomatic defense of the Bali prisoners?

Please keep Vleeptron up to date on new stuff on this issue. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

thanks for you interest. I am a middle aged australian who loves kids. Added to that, I have been a life long activist for some radical causes. The Australian Federal Police led these kids to a death sentence/daily nightmare. I am part of a team, we will look into all legal angles as well as raising funds and most importantly provoke peoples' awareness to the plight of Australians in overseas jails.
This Howard Govt is well known for its inhuman attitude.
Generally people here are apathetic and only really rise up with matters that concern them and their immediate family.

Vleeptron Dude said...

hiya Anonymous Joan --

first of all, Bob the Yank wishes to apologize for meddling in Oz Politics. Please feel free to meddle in USA politics. We could use some meddling from abroad.

hmmm ... i am trying to figure out how trying to save someone from capital punishment is a "radical cause." (But it's considered equally "radical" here, where we have our own capital punishment in i guess most USA states. But not mine -- Massachusetts.)

When i went to Australia I expected a very conservative political attitude, but was very pleased and startled at the progressive politics i encountered. I'd never heard of the Nuclear Free Pacific movement before. Also Helen Caldicott. In general it seemed to me that Oz has some very visionary and enlightened politics.

Please keep posting Comments, we will make you Vleeptron's Woman On The Ground in Australia and the South Pacific.

Anonymous said...

It is terrible that people are suffering in prisons all over the world...locked up for 30 years for a couple of joints etc...these australians particularly disturbing because our kids are their age. Bali is a familiar place. We are planning a benefit concert/rally in feb. in our local home town to raise money for the parents of the bali prisoners and also to raise peoples awareness of the plight of prisoners on "death row". I will invite Helen Coldicott if I can find her.
My son, Woody has just come back from America.
Well keep meddling Bob, I will too.
We followed your lead in the late 60's. As for the nuclear free pacific - Australia is digging up massive amount of uranium and exporting it all over the world under the guise that it is for "clean energy". If they keep mining in West Australian as they are currently in one hundred years time the eastern sea front will fall into the sea. cheers bob, anonymous joan.

Anonymous said...

For people calling for the death of the Bali Six - and have seen nothing here to support that - I would like to point them to:

And this post in particular:

>>THE Bali Nine are not getting much sympathy in Indonesia, and why should they? <<

I would ask all users, before they go out looking for street and club dealers or call their regular suppliers, to consider the risks that mules take to keep up their supplies.

A few ‘happy’ hours for users could well mean the death of the people they look to for their drugs. If, as so often happens, recreational users become addicted they can find themselves couriering drugs to maintain their habit, if they die from an overdose or contaminated supplies we mourn their death but blame the mules.

I hold no brief for anyone involved in supplying drugs, no matter what their involvement, but the user is as much part of the problem as the couriers. Leaving the mule to suffer the consequences is not the answer.

I don’t have the answer, but for as long as there are users our demonising of the mules will change nothing. It is way past time for people who seek out drugs to realize that they are asking other people to risk death for them.

I think many people forget that, without ‘pullers’ pushers would not get any traction.