The arrest of a 14-year-old Australian for allegedly buying marijuana in Bali, Indonesia, has become something of an international incident, with Australia's top elected official — Prime Minister Julia Gillard — reportedly offering reassurances to the boy by phone.
(Down Under reports: Bali marijuana arrest of Australian teen invokes memories of Corby, Bali Nine)
The News South Wales schoolboy — named over the weekend as Lewis Mason of Newcastle — spent his sixth night in a jail cell Sunday in Denpasar for allegedly buying $25 worth of marijuana from a dealer in the resort town of Kuta Beach. He had been staying with his family at the Legian Beach Hotel.
Mason — whose name was suppressed by many Australian news outlets owing to ethical worries about identifying children in trouble — has admitted to buying drugs in a statement to police, The Age newspaper reports.
The Australian government has pledged to "pull out all stops" to get the teen home, the Herald Sun reports.
Gillard's office said she told Mason that the Australian government was doing everything it could to convince Indonesia to release him, the ABC reports.
Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd already said Friday that the Australian authorities were negotiating with Indonesian officials to try to bring Mason home.
Meanwhile, Mason's supporters are pinning their hopes on a psychiatric report from a government welfare officer due in the next few days.
Based on the report, the police may opt to release Mason into the custody of his parents while the investigation into his alleged purchase of cannabis continues, The Age reports. He wouldn't be able to leave Bali, however.
The report will help a judge decide whether the boy should skip a jail sentence — he faces a term of six years — and undergo treatment at a drug rehabilitation clinic, possibility back in Australia.
According to article 128 of Indonesia's drug laws, those caught with small amounts of drugs can be released if they can prove they are an addict, the Age reports, adding that Mason told a psychiatrist that he had used cannabis previously.
That's highly preferable, according to the ABC which reports that while drug rehab programs in Bali exist, experts in juvenile welfare don't know of any dealing regularly with minors.
The alternative, reports the ABC, doesn't bear thinking about:
In the justice system the rights of Indonesian children are often abused: as well as more infamous inmates like the Bali Nine and Schapelle Corby, Kerobokan prison is home to 10 children — nine boys and one girl.
During the day they mix with adult thieves, bashers and drug dealers.
At night the boys cram in to two cells of their own, to be separate from the men but the girl sleeps in the same cell as the adults in the women's wing.
However, experts warn that it could take months before he learns his fate. The Indonesian justice system is notoriously slow, and setting a court date alone could take another week.
And then Mason may still face court if police decide to charge him under laws that carry a maximum six-year prison sentence, some or all of which would be served in a cell for minors in Kerobokan prison.