In what can be called shades of miscarried justice, a court in Fiji has sentenced a 30-year old Australian from Sydney to 14 years jail on charges of possessing 50 kilograms of cocaine.
Arrested in July 2015 along with a local Fijian, Joseph Abourizk got the hard punishment despite five jurors submitting that they had no evidence to link him to the crime. The young father also maintained his innocence.
Announcing verdict, Justice Thushara Rajasinghe said the accused had little regard for the laws of Fiji. Abourizk can apply for parole after serving 12 years.
According to the prosecution, Joseph, and a Fijian man were apprehended with several parcels of cocaine in their car at Lautoka.
During the trial, five assessors in the High Court testified that Abourizk was not guilty of unlawful possession of illicit drugs. As professional jurors, they give an opinion to judges even though judges need not go by their words.
According to Fiji police, the seized drugs were worth $9.6 million. Chief of investigations, Henry Brown, said the two men were apprehended near the Vuda Point Marina with the drug.
“Further investigations also resulted in the discovery of large amounts of Fijian and Australian currency from one of the suspects’ hotel rooms,” he said, the ABC reported.
Brown said the capture was executed after weeks of intelligence gathering by the combined effort of Fiji police, revenue and customs authority, and Australian Federal Police.
Abourizk and his wife were holidaying in Fiji days before his arrest.
Abourizk’s wife told Fairfax Media: “Every single one of the jury found him not guilty, every single one. How can this be? He should be coming home.”
“He’s crushed, we’re all crushed,” his Sydney lawyer Warwick Korn told Fairfax Media from Fiji. Abourizk has already spent nine months in jail and is yet to see his newly born daughter, Penelope.