Japanese grandfather gets life term in Indonesia drug case

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PARIAMAN, Indonesia (AP) — A Japanese man who says he was deceived into carrying someone else's bag on a flight into Indonesia was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for smuggling methamphetamine into the country.

Masaru Kawada, 73, was arrested in November at Minangkabau Airport in West Sumatra's capital, Padang, after customs officials found 2.35 kilograms (5.18 pounds) of crystal methamphetamine in his luggage.

A three-judge panel at the District Court in Pariaman found Kawada guilty, saying his deed weakened the government's struggle against drugs.

"We found no reason to lighten his sentence," said presiding judge Jon Effreddi.

Chief state prosecutor Budi Prihalda said they recommended a light sentence of 16 years because of the defendant's age.

Kawada's lawyer said they would appeal.

According to court documents, a man identified as Edward Mark met Kawada in Japan last November and asked him to travel to Macau, for which Mark paid for his tickets and accommodations and gave him $500 in travel expenses. While in Macau, Kawada met a Chinese woman who asked him to carry a bag to a friend in Padang.

Kawada, who flew to Padang from Macau via Kuala Lumpur, said he had checked the bag and did not find anything suspicious. He only realized he was carrying methamphetamine upon arrival when customs officials arrested him and confiscated the drug, he said.

The grandfather of two is believed to be one of the oldest drug smugglers to be sentenced in Indonesia, which has extremely strict drug laws and often executes smugglers. More than 130 people are on death row, mostly for drug crimes. About a third of them are foreigners.

Indonesia has executed 14 drug convicts, including 12 foreigners, this year amid protests and an international outcry, but Indonesia insists the punishment is part of confronting a drug emergency.

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