By CINDY WOCKNER and KOMANG SURIADI in Lombok - May 23, 2006
Shroud of shame...Barbara Higgis in court yesterday. Pic: Lukeman S Bintoro
THE outfit is a familiar one for an Australian female facing drugs charges in Indonesia.
But Barbara Kathleen Higgs' scarf was not in aid of a claimed conversion, or return, to Islam, or even an affinity with the religion.
The 43-year-old used the scarf and sunglasses, and then court papers, in an effort to hide her face as she pleaded with judges on Lombok to have "pity" and think about the effect on her family back in Australia.
She begged to be allowed to keep up the disguise.
The judges were not happy with the request to depart from usual court rules but in the end allowed the trembling woman her wish.
Higgs, from Pinjarra in Western Australia, was arrested in Lombok three months ago and now faces the harshest of Indonesia's drug laws article 82 which carries the maximum death penalty for dealing in drugs the same narcotics laws used to convict Australians Schapelle Corby and the Bali Nine.
She also faces two lesser charges and her lawyers say that hitting her with the main charge is an exaggeration of the case against her.
Higgs and her husband Melvin, live and run a small hotel called Buklan Baru on Lombok's Senggigi Beach tourist strip.
She was arrested in February following a tip-off about drug use from the "local community" and prosecutors allege a search of her home uncovered about 50g of marijuana and a soft drink can with which to smoke it.
Higgs faces three charges, the most serious of which encompasses import, export, sell, distribute and other matters and carries death, life or 20 years in jail.
The second charge of possession carries a 10-year maximum jail term and the third charge, of using narcotics for herself, carries a four-year maximum.
She arrived at Mataram District Court shielding her face and head with a black headscarf, in reflection of the days Australian model Michelle Leslie appeared in a Bali courtroom on drugs charges wearing a headscarf.
Ushered through the media scrum, her husband could not hide his disgust, saying "this is a joke".
Looking perplexed at Higg's plea to be allowed to continue wearing sunglasses and to cover her face with a copy of the indictment or charges against her, the judges, keen to get the case started, finally agreed.
Speaking in Indonesian, Higgs, her voice trembling and hands shaking, begged chief Judge Fachrur Rozie, saying "please help me sir. I'm really sorry, I pity my family in Australia" and "please ask the journalists to get out."
Prosecutor Raharjo Yusuf told the court it was alleged that police searched Higgs' home after receiving a tip from the community.
The 49.7g of marijuana was found inside a large suitcase.
He said it was alleged Higgs bought the marijuana from an unknown dealer for about $70 and that her urine had tested positive to traces of marijuana.
Her lawyers opted not to exercise their right to deliver a legal exception to the case and witnesses will be called when the trial resumes next week.