31st July, 2012
An Australian nurse and a Nigerian man face the possibility of death by hanging after a Malaysian court on Tuesday charged them with trafficking methamphetamines.
Emma Louise L’Aiguille, 34, was charged in a Kuala Lumpur court along with Anthony Esikalam Ndidi two weeks after police said they were arrested in possession of one kilogramme (2.2 pounds) of methamphetamine.
L’Aiguille entered the court in tears and spoke briefly to Australian High Commission officials before sitting in the dock, hunched over in distress, for the hearing.
No plea was recorded but the Australian’s lawyer said she was innocent and was slapped once by a Malaysian police officer during interrogations.
Drug trafficking carries a mandatory death sentence by hanging in Malaysia, where hundreds of people are on death row, mostly for drug offences.
Anyone found to be in possession of at least 50 grams of methamphetamine is considered a trafficker.
L’Aiguille, from Melbourne, was in a car with her co-defendant when police arrested them, attorney Muhammad Shafee Abdullah told reporters after the court appearance.
Police told L’Aiguille, who had been driving, that drugs were later found in the car, he said.
Muhammad Shafee said two other Nigerians — L’Aiguille’s boyfriend and another man — had also been in the car but had left the vehicle just prior to the arrests. Police are currently searching for the boyfriend, he added.
“She is completely depressed. She just does not understand how all this could happen to her. She was just driving the car,” Muhammad Shafee said.
He said L’Aiguille was a nurse who was in Malaysia as a tourist and had visited the country several times over the past two years.
He complained that defence lawyers were only allowed one ten-minute meeting with her before the court appearance.
The next court appearance was set for October 1. Pleas are not normally heard at the time defendants are charged.
No further details were immediately available on the Nigerian defendant as he was not represented by legal counsel at the hearing.
In March, Australian Dominic Jude Christopher Bird, 32, was charged with drug trafficking.
The truck driver from Perth in Western Australia was arrested on March 1 in Kuala Lumpur in possession of 225 grams of methamphetamine. The case is still in the courts.
Since 1960, more than 440 people have been executed in Malaysia, including two Australians put to death in 1986 for heroin trafficking that made headlines as they were the first Westerners to be executed under tough new anti-drug laws.