A Sydney father has been sentenced to 14 years jail in Fiji after being found guilty of possessing almost 50 kilograms of cocaine. Fiji police arrested tow truck driver Joseph Abourizk and a Fijian local last July after finding several parcels of cocaine hidden in two suitcases.
On Thursday, Justice Thushara Rajasinghe sentenced him to a maximum of 14 years in prison. Mr Abourizk, 30, continues to maintain his innocence, as does his wife Karla.
After the sentencing, Mrs Abourizk 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.”
Abourizk and his wife had been holidaying in Fiji before his arrest.
He said his wife went home early because of work commitments. He was arrested the next day.
Five assessors in the High Court of Fiji at Lautoka unanimously found Abourizk not guilty of unlawful possession of illicit drugs.
Assessors are the equivalent of professional jurors and they give their opinion to a judge. But judges are not bound by their decisions.
Justice Thushara Rajasinghe found Abourizk guilty.
“He’s crushed, we’re all crushed,” his Sydney lawyer Warwick Korn told Fairfax Media from Fiji.
“It’s very difficult to comprehend.”
Abourizk has already been in jail for nine months and missed the recent birth of his first child, a daughter named Penelope.
In an interview with Fairfax Media last week Mrs Abourizk said she was “beyond words” after her husband was found guilty.
“There was no doubt in our minds he was returning home,” Mrs Abourizk told Fairfax Media.
“Now my husband spends the next year awaiting a fair reopening of this matter in a Third World country away from his wife, family and daughter whose birth was robbed of him.”