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French drug smuggler's death sentence commuted in Indonesia

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Jakarta (AFP)

A French drug smuggler's death sentence has been commuted by an Indonesian court to 19 years in prison, his lawyer told AFP on Friday.

The ruling comes less than three months after Felix Dorfin, 35, was handed a capital sentence following his arrest last year at the airport on the holiday island next to Bali, where foreigners are routinely charged with drugs offences.

Dorfin was carrying a suitcase filled with about three kilograms (6.6 pounds) of drugs including ecstasy and amphetamines when he was seized, but maintains he had no knowledge of the narcotics.

Muslim majority Indonesia has some of the world's toughest drug laws and has executed foreigners in the past, including the masterminds of Australia's Bali Nine heroin gang.

It was not immediately clear why the Mataram High Court in Lombok overturned Dorfin's sentence, with the ruling expected to be made public later Friday.

His lawyer, Denny Nur Indra, confirmed the court's decision to AFP.

Ginung Pratidina, the prosecutor in the case said he was deciding whether or not to appeal the decision.

While Indonesian courts are known to issue punishments that are tougher than the sentence demanded, Dorfin's death sentence came as a shock as prosecutors had only asked for a 20-year jail term.

The Frenchman made headlines in January when he escaped from a police detention centre in Lombok and spent nearly two weeks on the run before he was captured.

A female police officer was arrested for allegedly helping him escape in exchange for money.

Indra has previously described Dorfin, who is from Bethune in northern France, as a "victim" who did not know the exact contents of what he was carrying in the suitcase.

When he was sentenced to death earlier this year, the French foreign ministry said it was "concerned" by the sentence and reiterated France's opposition to the death penalty.

In 2015, Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran -- the accused ringleaders of the Bali Nine -- were executed by firing squad in Indonesia.

The Bali Nine gang's only female member was released from jail last year, while some others remain in prison.

There are scores of foreigners on death row in Indonesia, including cocaine-smuggling British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford and Serge Atlaoui, a Frenchman who has been on death row since 2007.

Last year, eight Taiwanese drug smugglers were sentenced to death by an Indonesian court after being caught with around a tonne of crystal methamphetamine.

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