Mistreatment alleged as Australian faces death sentence in Malaysia


KUALA LUMPUR — An Australian man has been charged with drug trafficking in Malaysia, which carries a mandatory death penalty, his lawyer said Monday, adding the accused claimed he was mistreated in custody. Dominic Jude Christopher Bird, 32, was charged with drug trafficking in a court on Friday, attorney Tania Scivetti said. Scivetti said she was told of the charge by the Australian High Commission, which had been informed by Malaysian authorities, and complained that neither she nor another of Bird’s lawyers were present for the proceeding. She said she had no further details but added she and her colleague were to meet with Bird on Tuesday.

Kuala Lumpur court officials have been unable to confirm the charge to AFP. The truck driver from Perth in Western Australia was arrested March 1 in Kuala Lumpur, the capital, in possession of 225 grams (7.9 ounces) of methamphetamine. Police have said he was arrested along with another accomplice, and that three other people were subsequently detained in relation to the case. Drug trafficking carries a mandatory death penalty by hanging upon conviction in Malaysia. Anyone found to be in possession of at least 50 grams of methamphetamines is considered a trafficker. Scivetti said during a meeting with Bird last Thursday he told them he was blindfolded and slapped while in custody. Australian High Commission officials with knowledge of the case could not immediately be reached. According to Malaysian government figures early last year, some 700 prisoners, mostly men, were on death row. More than two-thirds of those involved drug offences. Since 1960 more than 440 people have been executed, including two Australians whose 1986 hanging for heroin trafficking made headlines as the first Westerners executed under new tougher anti-drug laws.