Australian drug suspect mentally ill and could die in Bali jail without meds, says lawyer

Photo: Pixabay
Photo: Pixabay

The lawyer representing Australian Joshua James Baker, who was arrested earlier this month after Bali customs found drugs in his luggage, fears her client could die in custody without his medication, though she did not specify precisely what medication he was lacking.

Attorney Pande Putu Maya Arsanti — who has served as defense counsel in a number of high-profile drug cases involving foreigners in Bali — also argued that her client is mentally ill and cannot be held accountable.

But while she reasons that his alleged state is enough to justify deportation to his home country for treatment, Indonesian police are moving forward anyway to have Baker prosecuted.

Baker was stopped at Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport on Oct. 8, where 28 grams of marijuana and 37 pills of the sedative Diazepam (originally known as Valium) were allegedly discovered in his luggage.

The Aussie made a getaway from the toilet when he was doing a routine urine test on Oct. 9, climbing through a ventilation shaft. But his escape was brief — police tracked him down just 10 hours later in Canggu.

Dr. Denny Thong, a psychiatrist that previously treated the Aussie back in 2015 for hallucinations and mental instability, was brought to the jail yesterday, but police did not allow him to see Baker.

“I got the impression that he’s very unstable,” Thong said, as quoted by News Corp Australia, adding that he had previously prescribed the Aussie psychotropics and a mild anti-psychotic.

“From my part, for his mental health, he certainly needs professional help.”

It was not immediately clear if Dr. Thong now lives in Bali or if he had been flown there to provide an independent medical evaluation.

Arsanti said police doctors treating Baker couldn’t speak English, weren’t familiar with his medical history, and had stopped giving him his medication, which she feared could kill him.

“He said that if he doesn’t get the medicine, he feels that something presses his chest,” Arsanti said, without specifying whether she was describing a heart condition or a psychosomatic reaction brought on by his alleged mental illness. 

“My client said that he felt like his chest was pressured. It’s very dangerous,” she added. “We want to give letters, evidence, that he cannot be charged legally because he has a mental illness. People with mental illness cannot be charged.”

That said, the Australian has already been formally named a suspect for drug possession and importing narcotics, which could land him between five and 15 years behind bars if convicted.

Arsanti says her client had been prescribed the Diazepam by a doctor in Cambodia. While that’s certainly possible, it’s worth pointing out that Cambodian drug stores are notorious for not requiring prescriptions and a vast array of painkillers and opioids that would be illegal without a prescription elsewhere are readily available over the counter. 

“He uses drugs, maybe he also went to a healer. He went to Cambodia for treatment (errrrr). He went to many places for medication. He used drugs, he used anything, but it doesn’t work, he is still sick.”

Baker was moved on Tuesday from a police hospital to a regular holding cell.

On the police side of things, however, Bali deputy director of narcotics Sudjarwoko says Baker is not so mentally ill that he can’t be held accountable.

Baker could answer all questions police asked him, Sudjarwoko said.

“If the person was crazy, if we asked him one thing, he would answer another thing. He would then need to be released under the law. But [Mr Baker] could answer the questions we asked him,” the Sydney Morning Herald quoted him as saying.

“Anybody who has a legal problem with the police suffers some sort of mental problems. No one would happily face such a time.”


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