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The BBC's Judith Moloney
"He cited his lack of faith in the country's justice system"
 real 28k

Monday, 3 July, 2000, 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK
British nurse sentenced to death
David Chell
David Chell's appeal could take many years
A British nurse charged with drug smuggling in Malaysia has been sentenced to death by hanging.

Father-of-two David Chell, 57, from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, was found guilty of possession of more than half a kilo of heroin.

Mr Chell, who says the heroin was planted on him, is to appeal against the sentence.

We are looking to the government to intervene and rectify this dreadful mistake

Sarah Shaw, family friend

A friend of the Chell family immediately called on the British Government to intervene.

But a Foreign Office spokeswoman said Britain would only intervene officially once the legal process, including any appeal, was over.

"It is for him to discuss with his lawyer whether he should appeal," she added.

"We oppose the death penalty and we would press the Malaysian authorities for the sentence to be commuted [if upheld at an appeal]."

'Set-up'

Mr Chell, a psychiatric nurse, was charged after an airport guard claimed to have discovered drugs on him as he prepared to board a flight to Australia in October 1998.

Customs officers at Penang Airport in northern Malaysia say they found the drugs in Mr Chell's underwear.

But Mr Chell said one of the security officers produced the bag of heroin from underneath a cushion in the airport examination room where he was taken.


Heroin
Mr Chell denies all charges of carrying heroin
During his evidence at a court in Penang, Mr Chell said he had never had anything to do with heroin except as a professional nurse handling drug addiction.

Stephen Jakobi, from the human rights organisation Fair Trials Abroad, said he had been monitoring Mr Chell's trial and was optimistic the appeal court in Malaysia would overturn the verdict.

"It is obvious it should have been thrown out, the prosecution case was flawed. Police log book statements were missing for one thing," he said.

"I am sure the Malaysian Appeal Court will have no problem with it. Malaysia doesn't have a bad reputation (with justice), only where there is a political angle involved and I don't see one in this case."

Shocked

Family friend Sarah Shaw said everyone connected with Mr Chell had been left devastated by the verdict.

"We just can't believe what has happened. David is a thoughtful, intelligent and generous human being," she said.

"This man is innocent. He should have been acquitted and be on his way back home today.

"We are looking to the government to intervene and rectify this dreadful mistake."

Mr Chell's appeal could take several years.

In 1986 Malaysia executed two Australians, Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers, for drug trafficking.

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See also:

12 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Briton denies Malaysia drugs charge
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