Source: Herald Sun
Date: 29 August 2005

Bali model now a devout Muslim

Cindy Wockner, Bali

picture of Michelle Leslie

UNDERWEAR model Michelle Leslie has declared herself a Muslim and yesterday appeared covered head to toe in Islamic garb.

Ms Leslie's face was hidden as she was led from her cell at Bali Police headquarters, where she is facing up to 15 years in jail if convicted on charges of possessing two tablets of ecstasy.

Her legal team refused to comment on whether she grew up as a Muslim or converted recently.

But her Australian lawyer and a family spokesman gave differing accounts as to why she wore the Muslim clothing.

Lawyer Ross Hill said: "Well, that's just something that we all thought about, just to keep her covered, you know, we are just trying to keep things down."

Later, family spokesman Sean Mulcahy said: "Michelle, as a Muslim, made the decision to wear the hijab to find solace with God, not for any other purpose."

Ms Leslie, who is of Australian and Filipina heritage, models underwear, swimwear and other clothes, and last year appeared in little more than body paint at a modelling assignment.

Since she was arrested last week, she has appeared with a sarong over her head.

After a brief meeting yesterday with members of her new five-strong legal team, Ms Leslie spent the rest of the day in the detectives' room at Denpasar police headquarters with Norah Cullen, who has identified herself as the model's business manager and best friend.

Lawyer Basuki Prawirodipuro, who is on the defence team, said Ms Leslie was bearing up.

"She looks OK, she looks happy, well," Mr Prawirodipuro said.

Mr Hill said the case was an "extremely difficult set of circumstances".

He said he was in Bali to "be the eyes and ears of Michelle's family".

Mr Hill would not comment on Mr Leslie's statement to police in which she allegedly admitted to knowing the two ecstasy pills were in her bag, and that she and her girlfriend bought the pills from a street dealer and intended to take them that evening at a party.

In the 4 1/2-page statement, she is also alleged to have told police she had been taking ecstasy for the past year and that she could not enjoy a party without it.

Mr Mulcahy said Ms Leslie's previous lawyer, Mohammed Rifan, had already described the copy of the police statement as a "fake".

He said lawyers advised Ms Leslie's family and friends not to go to Bali.

"Michelle has the person closest to her at this point in time, in Norah Cullen, with her," he said.

"There is no problem with the family."

Ms Leslie has denied drug use.

Police are still waiting on forensic tests on the two pink tablets, along with tests on her blood, before completing their investigation.

Ms Leslie, in demand for her exotic Eurasian features, had just completed an assignment in Singapore before she flew to Bali for a holiday.

She models internationally under the name of Michelle Lee, and recently became the new face of Antz Pantz underwear.

Bali police are ramping up their anti-drugs crackdown, with drug squad officers set to conduct random drug testing.

Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer yesterday said the drug testing was not aimed at any specific racial group.

"It will be (directed at) Indonesians and Asians from other countries and Europeans and Australians and whoever happens to be at these places," Mr Downer said.

"Indonesians are being arrested. Indonesians sometimes have been executed for drug trafficking, so they're not discriminating against anybody.

"They're applying the law equally across the board, as they should."

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