LINDSAY MURDOCH -
January 11, 2010
Scott Rush (left) and Renae Lawrence. Photo: Glenn Campbell
DRUG prisoner Renae Lawrence has made a fresh confession about her role in heroin smuggling in an effort to prevent the execution of Scott Rush, the youngest of the nine Australians arrested in Bali in 2005.
Lawrence's testimony at Rush's final appeal that she made multiple courier runs to Bali will help lawyers argue that his death sentence is unjust under Indonesian law, because lighter sentences were given to other members of the group.
Although Lawrence had made two drug runs to Bali before her arrest in 2005, she received a 20-year sentence, the least severe punishment imposed on any of the nine Australians.
Nineteen-year-old Rush was making his first overseas trip when 3.4 kilograms of heroin was found strapped to his body at Denpasar airport in April 2005.
He had no knowledge of the extent of the drug syndicate that recruited him and, after initial denials, confessed his guilt and pleaded for mercy.
His death sentence has attracted controversy because Australian Federal Police reneged on a promise to his father, Lee Rush, to stop the then teenager travelling to Bali. Instead, the police steered him into a trap knowing he could face execution under Indonesia's drug laws.
Rush and the group's convicted ringleaders, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, are the only members of the group who have been sentenced to death and are awaiting final appeals while on death row in Bali's Kerobokan jail.
The other six, including Lawrence, are serving jail terms.
Lawrence told Indonesian police after her arrest in 2005 that she travelled to Bali in October the previous year with Chan and that Sukumaran had strapped the pair with heroin, which they took back to Australia.
She also told police of a trip to Bali in December 2004 that was aborted because of difficulty obtaining money to buy the drugs.
But during her trial, Lawrence withdrew her police statements and was not questioned at length about them.
The Age has learned Lawrence has given a new statement to Rush's lawyers and is prepared to testify if asked to do so by a panel of Supreme Court judges set to consider Rush's appeal, which could begin in early April.
Lawrence's drug run in October 2004 and attempted run three months later were confirmed during the trials of three of the syndicate's other drug ''mules'' in Brisbane in December 2008.
Rush was initially sentenced to life imprisonment - but in a shock judgment, the sentence was increased to death on appeal in the Supreme Court in 2006.
In the same court, fellow couriers Martin Stephens and Michael Czugaj had life sentences upheld.
The differing appeal sentences were imposed on the basis of the same evidence heard by different judges.
Prosecutors had never asked for the death sentence for Rush. Under Indonesian law there is no automatic requirement for findings in different courts to match, nor for the ruling of a superior court to be followed automatically by a lower court.
But Rush's lawyers can point to sentencing inconsistencies in a motion for reconsideration at the appeal.
They are expected to ask the appeal judges to look at all the ''Bali nine'' cases and argue that for the sentences to be uniform, Rush should not be executed.
In 2008, the retiring head of Indonesia's Supreme Court, Bagir Manan, was quoted as saying he expected the apparent injustice of Rush's sentence to be considered at the final appeal.
If final appeals by Rush, Chan and Sukumaran fail, their last option is to seek clemency from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has shown little mercy to those convicted of narcotics crimes since he took office in 2004.
Rush's lawyers are expected to file his appeal before those of Chan and Sukumaran.
Rush says he was living a teenager's ''party life'' in Brisbane with Czugaj, his schoolmate, when they were offered all-expenses-paid trips to Bali in 2005.
During their eight-day stay in Bali, Chan and Sukumaran demanded they carry packages back to Australia, for which they would be paid $5000 each. They were told their families would be killed if they did not follow instructions. After they were detained at Denpasar airport, they were escorted to a room where they saw two other distressed Australians they had never seen before who had also been caught trying to carry drugs to Sydney. They turned out to be Martin Stephens and the woman whose testimony might now save Rush's life, Renae Lawrence.
Lawrence, then 29, from Newcastle, feared she faced life in jail as she pleaded for mercy at her trial in 2006. Her lawyers were surprised and relieved when she was sentenced to 20 years.
Following controversy over the AFP's role in Rush's arrest, the Rudd Government last month issued guidelines stipulating that police consider a suspect's age, nationality and whether capital punishment is likely when co-operating with foreign countries.
The organisers and financiers of the heroin to be smuggled by the Bali nine have never been arrested.
It has never been explained how a Thai woman named Cherry Likit Bannakorn twice managed to remain unnoticed as she delivered the heroin to Chan in the middle of a police surveillance operation instigated by the AFP.
Federal MPs on both sides are pushing to pass laws early this year to entrench Australia's opposition to the death penalty.