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Malaysia re-arrests Aussie despite drug acquittal

10 September 2013, 16:15

Putrajaya - An Australian man who was acquitted of the capital offence of drug trafficking in Malaysia last week was back in court Tuesday after authorities re-arrested him in hopes of appealing the ruling.

Lawyers for Dominic Bird, aged 33, told a court that his re-arrest on Monday was unconstitutional as they mounted a bid for his "unconditional" release.

"This is intolerable. It is against the very tenants of acquittal," lawyer Shafee Abdullah told reporters outside a court in the Malaysian administrative capital of Putrajaya.

"They have been abusing the system. If they hadn't been abusing the system, I'm sure Dominic will be in Perth today."

Bird, of Western Australia, was arrested in March last year for alleged possession of 167g of methamphetamine.

Anyone with at least 50g of the drug is considered a trafficker in Muslim-majority Malaysia, which imposes a mandatory sentence of death by hanging upon conviction.

After an 18-month legal fight, a high court freed Bird last Wednesday, finding him not guilty.

His lawyers had based much of their case on the assertion that a government chemist had erred when analysing the substance found on their client.

But Bird was re-arrested on Monday just as he was to board a flight back to Australia.

Prosecutors, who were not available for comment on Tuesday after a hearing on Bird's fate, are seeking to appeal his acquittal.

The court in Malaysia's administrative capital of Putrajaya has scheduled another hearing for Thursday.

In brief comments to reporters, Bird said he had feared he might not be allowed to go home.

"I was just a few steps away," he said.

Since 1960 nearly 450 people have been put to death under Malaysia's tough anti-drug laws. Two Australians were executed in 1986 for heroin trafficking - the first Westerners to be hanged.

Hundreds of people are on death row, many for drug-related offences, though few have been executed in recent years.



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