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Briton faces verdict over Bali cocaine ring

Briton Julian Ponder testifies during Lindsay Sandiford's trial in Bali on November 28, 2012
Lindsay June Sandiford (L) covers her face as fellow Briton Julian Ponder (R) testifies during Sandiford's trial at a court in Denpasar on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on November 28, 2012. Ponder faces a verdict and sentence on cocaine possession

A British man accused of involvement in a drugs trafficking ring on the Indonesian resort island of Bali faces a verdict and sentence on cocaine possession charges Tuesday.

Julian Ponder, 43, is linked with Lindsay Sandiford, a British grandmother who was condemned to death last week for her part in what authorities described as a "huge international syndicate".

Ponder was arrested after receiving a package from Sandiford in a police sting operation mounted after she was caught with five kilos (11 pounds) of cocaine hidden in her suitcase on a flight from Bangkok to Bali in May.

Customs officials display packs of cocaine found in Lindsay Sandiford's suitcase in Bali on May 28, 2012
Lindsay Sandiford covers her face as customs officials at Bali airport display packs of cocaine they claim was found in her suitcase, May 28, 2012.

He was initially also accused of trafficking over the $2.4 million drugs haul, but earlier this month prosecutors dropped the smuggling charge, a serious offence punishable by death in Indonesia.

Ponder, from Brighton in England, now only faces a charge over possession of 23.04 grammes of cocaine found in the bedroom of his luxury Bali villa.

Under Indonesian law, penalty for possession ranges from at least five years in prison to life sentence.

Prosecutors have recommended a seven-year jail sentence but the judges are not obliged to follow that recommendation. In Sandiford's case, judges sentenced her to death despite the prosecutors' recommendation of a 15-year jail term.

Two other Britons in connection with the drug trafficking ring received light sentences last month.

Rachel Dougall, with whom Ponder had a six-year-old daughter, was sentenced to one year in jail for failing to report Sandiford's crime and Paul Beales received four years for possession of 3.6 grams of hashish.

Like Ponder, both were cleared of drug trafficking.

Sandiford, 56, was sentenced last Tuesday to death by firing squad. The authorities said she was at the centre of the drugs ring but she argued that she was coerced and faced threats that her children would be harmed.

Sandiford is appealing against the sentence.

British rights group Reprieve said Sunday that she is also suing the British government for allegedly failing to support her appeal against her death penalty.

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