Lindsay June Sandiford death sentence, British woman convicted of drug smuggling in Indonesia

(CNN) -- A 56-year-old British woman has been sentenced to death in Indonesia for drug smuggling, a court official said Tuesday.

Prosecutors in Bali had asked for a 15-year sentence for Lindsay June Sandiford.

It was not immediately known why the judge decided to hand down the death penalty.

The UK Foreign Office confirmed the sentence but gave no details of the case. It continues to provide consular assistance.

"The UK remains strongly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances," a Foreign Office statement said.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, has strict laws against drug trafficking.

Sandiford, originally from northeast England, was found to have blocks of cocaine weighing almost 4.8 kilograms in her suitcase after she arrived on the island of Bali on a Thai Airways flight in May last year, government officials said at the time.

The cocaine was worth an estimated $2.6 million, officials said at a news conference held to announce the arrest, along with that of four other suspects, three of them British and one Indian.

The head of Bali's Customs and Excise Agency monitoring division, Made Wijaya, warned then that Sandiford could face execution if convicted.

"The main reason is because narcotics can massively endanger the young and, thus, whoever is caught with drugs should be severely punished. If three people can consume one gram of cocaine, then this operation has potentially saved up to 14,000 lives," he said.

The UK-based group Reprieve, which works to secure the human rights of prisoners around the world, voiced concern about the plight of Sandiford last month -- and said it would be "unthinkable" for the prosecution to demand the death penalty given the circumstances of the case.

"Lindsay has been through a terrible experience -- she was exploited by drug traffickers, who targeted her because of her vulnerability and her fear for the safety of her children," said Harriet McCulloch, of Reprieve, in a statement.

"She was interrogated by the Indonesian police without a translator, legal representation or the assistance of the British embassy for 10 days."

The U.S. State Department warns travelers to Indonesia of the risks of being caught smuggling drugs.

"Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Indonesia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines," or the death penalty, it says. "Indonesian prisons are harsh and do not meet Western standards."

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