Canberra welcomes Jakarta’s parole of Aussie convict

AFP, SYDNEY

Sun, Feb 09, 2014 - Page 5

Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop yesterday welcomed Indonesia’s decision to parole drug trafficker Schapelle Corby and called for the 36-year-old’s privacy to be respected.

Corby, whose incarceration has fascinated the Australian public, was granted parole on Friday in Bali, where she was convicted and jailed for 20 years in 2005 for trying to smuggle marijuana onto the island.

Canberra had supported the parole application since it was lodged in October 2012.

“I understand that now the decision to grant parole has been made, it is a matter for the authorities to determine the time of the release, but I hope that she’s now given some privacy as she gets her life back together,” Bishop said.

This appears unlikely, as her case has attracted huge media attention and public scrutiny in Australia since she was sentenced and a US$1 million bidding war is now underway for her first post-jail interview.

Corby’s well-documented mental illness, steadfast proclamation of innocence and fight to be freed from the notorious Kerobokan Prison earned her sympathy in Australia, but the view in Indonesia is starkly different, with many seeing her as a common criminal who broke the country’s tough anti-drugs laws.

In an editorial published yesterday, Indonesian-language daily Media Indonesia labeled the beauty school dropout as “the Marijuana Queen.”

“Any tolerance shown through leniency or granting parole is a deplorable act,” it said.

Alexander Downer, who was Australia’s foreign minister at the time of Corby’s jailing, said that her family and supporters need to maintain a “level head” after her release.

“The wisest thing to do here — and I hope wisdom will prevail — is just to accept what’s happened,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“There’s nothing that can be done about the past — and perhaps she was guilty, perhaps she wasn’t, we don’t know — but move on and rebuild her life from here. She’s got plenty of time to do that,” Downer added.

While Indonesian Minister of Justice Amir Syamsuddin approved the parole application, Kerobokan Governor Farid Junaid said that Corby would not be released until tomorrow at the earliest due to procedural formalities.

In any case, Corby will not be able to return to Australia immediately. Instead, as part of her parole conditions, she will have to remain in Indonesia until 2017, when her sentence would be complete.

She is expected to stay with her sister, Mercedes, who lives on Bali on the tourist strip of Kuta.

Mercedes has previously said that her sister will work with her designing bikinis for her husband’s surf shop, Kuta Boardroom.

Nyoman Jika, one of the village leaders where Mercedes lives, said that he would welcome the alleged drug mule into the community.

“As long as she doesn’t get involved in criminal activities, we don’t have any problems welcoming Schapelle into our community,” said Jika, who provided a letter of support for the Australian during her application process.