Monday, January 17, 2011

Frank Amado -- The Actual Story

Frank Amado
On October 19, 2009 U.S. Citizen, Frank Amado, was arrested outside of his apartment in Jakarta, Indonesia by BNN (the Indonesian drug enforcement agency) for being in possession of 5.668 grams of Shabu (also known as Ice) which he was storing at his apartment. Frank was given a death sentence on August 4, 2010.

We have been fortunate enough to be able to correspond with Frank.

Here is his story:

9 August, 2010

What were you arrested for?

Frank: For storing 5.66 Kg of Shabu (also known as Ice) in an apartment I was staying in in Jakarta, Indonesia.

What was the scale of your involvement in the crime?

Frank: I performed the role of Keeper. This is basically a person who performs the duties and acts much in the same capacity as the manager of a storage facility. I was given the ice for safe keeping until such time as its owners had need of it and then I would return it.

Was there anyone else arrested with you?

Frank: Yes. There was obviously a sting operation going on because within the hour that I was arrested, several other people that I knew were also taken into custody.

What has happened to the others who were arrested?

Frank: My boss, responsible for directing me, has already been sentenced and two other individuals, who, based on what has happened, should also be serving time, were released due to having approximately $28,000 in cash that was forfeited to those in charge at BNN in exchange for their freedom.

What kind of sentence did your “boss” get?

Frank: Sorena was given a 15 year sentence which, from what I was told, was due to a $50,000 bribe (gift as they like to call it). I was made a similar offer but, since I did not have the money, even without taking into consideration that the BNN police had stolen every conceivable thing I owned down to my shoes and underwear (the former of which was even brazenly worn by some of the arresting officers during the ensuing weeks and months of interrogations).

Have you been threatened with torture or violence to your person since your arrest?

Frank: I was threatened numerous times with things such as being handcuffed and beaten in a chair for not signing completely bogus statements, many of which were made entirely without my involvement, or for my refusal to implicate people who were either innocent or who I would not assist the police in increasing the severity of their charges.

How were the others involved treated?

Frank: Some of them were severely tortured. Sorena was taken to his apartment. He recounts being taken inside his bedroom by 6 BNN officers, being handcuffed and thrown on the bed and being punched repeatedly by an officer sitting on his chest, then eventually being kicked on the floor and having one of them jump on his chest two times, cracking several of his ribs, which later resulted in his hospitalization. Additionally, when he tried to speak, he had a thick book slammed into his throat.

My girlfriend, Ploy, was also slapped about the face for trying to object to my treatment during the arrest scenario in my apartment. The other two individuals, who had money and were released after being fleeced by BNN, were initially also in turn cuffed in a chair and beaten to bloody pulps in an attempt to increase the scope of, and profits to be made from, the case.

Did you witness anyone else hurt by the police?

Frank: As I stated, my girlfriend was initially slapped about, but later, at BNN headquarters, her torture was only confined to the mental/emotional kind being repeatedly badgered to give an admission to even a hint of knowledge that she knew what kind of work I was involved in.

How have you been treated while being imprisoned?

Frank: Well, if I have to summarize in an analogy--I feel like I'm a walking ATM machine here because, even though all my money has been taken from me and I'm subsisting on what little my 75 year-old mother can send, the public opinion appears to be, "Well, this guy is from America, so he must be rich,” because, even though most Westerners would think my existence here is horrible and substandard even for someone living in extreme poverty, it is still a far cry from how the low income Indonesian prisoners live, whose sometimes spoiled food is left by the entrances to the cell blocks on the ground in large trash bags which I, for the longest time, thought was trash. Incidentally, there are many skinny, malnourished cats and rats running around the Salemba campus and they take a wide girth around these trash bags of nutrition.

What did your “trial” entail? How long did it last?

Frank: Well, the duration was about 4 months to date. This excluded the initial 4 months I sat without possibility of bail in the dungeon of BNN. The title of "dungeon" might seem extreme, but how else would you refer to a place in which you are locked for 4 months without seeing daylight except for when you are occasionally being dragged to an interrogation, or what can be seen through tiny holes that barely allow for adequate ventilation, a place where you are constantly reminded you have absolutely no human rights, and even what is given to you in essentials for survival can be instantly stolen by corrupt and often sadistic guards and police, a place in which the food scraps you receive frequently cause abdominal cramps, a place where every week you are suffering from either skin sores and lesions, diarrhea, flu, eye infections, sore throats, and coughs?

What evidence and/or proof did the police and judges bring against you?

Frank: Well, the BNN police and the prosecutor’s office's primary evidence in my case was the 5.668 kg of ice that was found in my apartment. I wasn't shown the ice again after the first time during my move from BNN to Salemba until I was brought in to testify as a witness during Sorena Parsi's trial. To my disbelief, the stories I had been hearing about the police switching drugs to sell themselves was actually true as the Ice I was keeping was said to be of extremely high quality resembling shards of translucent white crystals, but what was shown in the courtroom was definitely not the same as what was taken from my apartment. This stuff resembled a combination of wet brown sugar, some with a deep orange tinge to them.

I have heard this is a common practice as, whenever BNN ceremonially burn the confiscated drugs they acquire, it is usually a substitute such as sugar. I know this for a fact, as not only have I heard from numerous sources that this goes on, but also that some former inmates here were involved in the switching processes of this sort before. Not to mention, that while I was out, I was in the car with someone who sold a couple of hundred grams of ice to the head of police in one of the Jakarta police's drug agencies.

What are the conditions like where you are being incarcerated?

Frank: Well, as I stated previously, it's pretty much a hellhole...unless one has money. Money, as in most places in the world, can even afford you a good deal of comfort in hell. However, if you can't afford it, you definitely don't want to be in the Indonesian prison system. Here, one has to pay for everything and you are constantly being pestered by police and other inmates alike, all of whom are trying to figure out any way possible to extract every last Rupiah they can out of your pockets.

If your family was unable to provide for your living situation to be slightly better than your fellow inmates, what would life be like for you, from what you’ve observed for other prisoners with no resources?

Frank: To put it bluntly, it's like living in a zoo. Here, it is a world unto its own. Drugs are prevalent and corruption is all-pervasive. It's basically a dog-eat-dog existence. Many inmates have jobs that they have to pay someone to acquire. Many of the jobs are doing the guards’ jobs and running errands where, basically, the guard gets paid his small salary to do little or nothing, and the inmate, who is working for that guard, gets paid perhaps Rp 2,000 per day (that equates to about 20 American cents). Others can sometimes work in the dirty food service industry. They stand for 7 hours selling over-priced, inferior-quality food all day for 6 days a week and earn Rp 50,000, or less than $5 per week.

Cleanliness is another aspect I could write a book on, but won't detail here. Let's just say that, by any standard, it is disgusting, and I personally wouldn't wish an existence in this environment on my worst enemy.

What are you given to eat?

Frank: Given? As stated previously, I have fortunately not had reason, to this point, to investigate what is in the trash bags of so-called food that is "given" for prisoner consumption here.

Do you have access to a doctor or dentist when you are sick or in pain?

Frank: If you can afford it, nothing is impossible, but for the majority of inmates here, health care is bare-bones minimum. Many very sick inmates just have to recover from ailments naturally, continuing to stay in the overcrowded mass rooms and probably infecting others. Those that become too ill, like my friend Mr. Udin, stay in the humid, and sometimes stiflingly hot, clinic. If they don't improve, they are sent to the hospital. He recounts his nightmare stay there of nurses trying to spare the hospital expenses by withholding medication as much as possible. Unheard of, right? Well, the statistic is, of all the inmates that are sent to the hospital, only about 5% ever make it back!

What percentage of other prisoners would you say have been beaten and/or hospitalized?

Frank: Here, I've only seen a few beatings, as I live in one of the better cell blocks. Also, by the time people get sent here, their bruises acquired in police stations like BNN have usually already healed up, at least for the most part. At BNN I witnessed people being beaten with fists and long, wooden 2x2 beams. Here, I see the long-term effects of such beatings like missing, or seriously messed-up teeth, from getting popped in the mouth repeatedly by a pistol butt for not being able to supply the police with more information. Like I was told by BNN at the time of my arrest, in America I have Miranda rights, but in Indonesia I have no rights at all. A bit off topic, but in a document given to me by the U.S. Embassy, it states that Indonesian police officers have "absolute power" in determining what constitutes sufficient evidence in each case. Subsequently, it is apparent that they exercise this same unquestioned power in their extraction methods.

How many suicides do you know of since March when you were moved to Salemba?

Frank: I lost track. I would venture to guess at least a dozen. Then there are also the life-taking "accidents" that occur. Just the other day, one of the guys I used to see every day, who had his little gas-powered wok and would cook eggs and rice under the stairs, fell down the stairwell and died. I can't say if foul play was involved, or if it was due to the power being routinely cut off every two hours to save money for the prison, making the already dirty and debris-cluttered stairs an even bigger safety hazard than they are in the daytime.

Has the U.S. Embassy intervened or come to your aid in any way?

Frank: So far, the embassy has come once every three months just to see if I'm okay. They have also given me 4 books to read. This has been the extent of their assistance. Other than that, any other services they can provide are cost prohibitive. They don't have any provisions to help monetarily. Go figure. They do provide some kind of loans, but that is only "if I qualify" and if my family wants to send money, it will require a $30 service charge on top of the extraordinarily high Western Union fee, plus I would still be required to have someone pick it up.

As for legal help, I was given a list of law firms, but I don't recall if the "reputable" one that fleeced my family of about $16,000 was on that list or not.

What do you feel is most important for people to know about you and your circumstances?

Frank: Well, first of all, I never at anytime claimed to be innocent. I know I did wrong and broke the law, but given my circumstances at the time of the possibility of ending up on the street penniless due to a failing real estate business and other work opportunities having completely dried up due to the bank failures and all-encompassing financial crisis, my options seemed bleak. So, when a so-called friend approached me and spoke of a three month job in which I could make a sizable amount of income with very low risk it, of course, got my attention. I remember saying I heard Indonesia was very strict on this line of work, but was told that what I would be doing wasn't the same as actually selling, and that as an American citizen the worst that I could expect was maybe 2 months in jail and then get deported, so with that in mind, the benefits outweighed the risks. Unfortunately, this was a lie, but even though I'm sure I could have done further research on my own, in the panic of financial desperation one is not looking for an excuse not to take a way out.

Regardless of what I did, and as much as I do regret my actions now, it is impossible for me to go back and make different choices.

Two points I wish to make though. For my part in the crimes allegedly committed, I feel that the ordeal that I have been through--the cost of losing the 2-year relationship I was in, the fact that the Indonesian police and government have stolen practically every possible thing I owned, the financial burden and emotional strain on myself, my family and friends, the toll on my health that I honestly feel has taken years off my life, and the mental turmoil that I've gone through and am still struggling with, are far more than compensation for any wrong-doing I stupidly was involved in.

I think that justice is one thing, but to have someone who works in the most visibly corrupt nation and government in the world, where the system of corruption involves practically the entirety of its population, telling me that I'm being given the death penalty because I was involved in "corrupting the children of Indonesia,” is basically adding insult to injury. I mean, after my lawyer "negotiated" with the prosecutor, I was told that for a mere $50,000 "gift" I could have a sentence of 15 years! What kind of justice is that? This is also why it was no surprise when I recently found out about a well-off inmate here, whose name I can't disclose, who was apprehended with 2 kilos of ice, but was able to pay $300,000, so he received a whopping 1 year sentence!

Second, my biggest complaint isn't necessarily just my situation, but the countless poverty stricken individuals who suffer at the hands of the unbelievably corrupt, so-called justice system in this country.

Many people here are spending a minimum of 4 to 6 years of their lives for having, say, 1 Ecstasy tablet or .02 gram of ice, which is little more than dust in a baggy while others I've seen, who could afford thousands upon thousands of dollars for paying to have the seriousness of their charges reduced, followed by spending a few days in rehab, are set free.

I have friends I have made here who have been crippled, maimed or deformed by police abuses, who in the West would have just cause to sue the police departments for their abuses for millions, but in this country are left to suffer behind bars while their wives and children try to survive without a husband and father. I could give hundreds of accounts of police and judicial abuses, but that is only scratching the surface of what goes on here.

It's all about fairness. I know the adage that "life isn't fair,” but to be witness to it happening on such a grand scale and with such public awareness of it is hard to fathom. The fact that the Indonesian public lives in such abject fear of its legal system scares me for it makes me wonder where our society, as a whole, is headed in the near future if something isn’t done to change it.

Source: Mercy for Frank Amado, Facebook, January 13, 2011 - Contact: mercy4frank@gmail.com


U.S. Citizen Gets Death Penalty For Trafficking Narcotics

Jakarta. The Central Jakarta District Court on Wednesday sentenced an American citizen to death for his part in an international drug syndicate.

“Considering that during the hearings there was nothing that could lighten the defendant’s sentence, and that after deliberations the judges found the defendant proven guilty of the primary charge against him, the defendant is sentenced to death,” presiding judge Dehel K Sandan said as he read out the court’s verdict.

Frank Amado, 46, was arrested outside his apartment in Central Jakarta in October carrying 500 grams of crystal methamphetamine.

Police also found 5.168 kilograms of the drug divided in 45 small packets hidden behind a cupboard while searching his apartment.

“Frank intentionally committed a criminal act, unlawfully becoming a courier in a Class I narcotics trade together with Peyman bin Azizallah aka Sorena aka Paulo Russo,” judge Dehel continued.

Peyman, an Iranian citizen, was arrested the same day as Amado in his apartment in South Jakarta. The court found he gave orders to Amado when they met in Bangkok in June last year.

“In August 2009 Peyman met with Kami and Komayon [who are both Iranian citizens and are still at large]. The two asked Peyman to join their narcotics business in Indonesia,” Dehel said.

Peyman was asked to receive drugs from Kami and Komayon before delivering them to the customers. Peyman was offered $6 per gram of drugs delivered.

“Peyman later offered the ‘job’ to Frank and he agreed,” Dehel continued.

Amado made three deliveries before his arrest. He usually met Kami and Komayon in Pasar Festival in Kuningan, South Jakarta, before giving the stash to Peyman, who would meet him in different hotels and once in Plaza Semanggi in South Jakarta.

“The defendant was actively involved in a large-scale drug trade that could have fatal consequences for society, especially the younger generation. The sentence was to [act as a] deterrent for foreigners involved in the drug trade,” Dehel said.

The court gave Amado, who was said to have changed his testimony throughout the trial, and his legal representative Sugiyono seven days to decide whether to appeal or directly seek clemency from the president.

After the hearing, Amado told reporters he was unsatisfied with the court’s ruling and he would definitely appeal.

“People have done so much worse in this country but they are being punished for less,” he said.

Source: JakartaGlobe, August 5, 2010