Schapelle Corby granted parole

By Billy Adams

Schapelle Corby is expected to move in with her older sister Mercedes, who lives in Bali. Photo / AP
Schapelle Corby is expected to move in with her older sister Mercedes, who lives in Bali. Photo / AP

It took almost 10 years, but convicted drug smuggler Schapelle Corby is set to taste freedom after Indonesian authorities granted her parole.

Last night's decision was as widely anticipated as the media frenzy that will greet the former beauty student when she finally walks out of Bali's notorious Kerobokan jail.

Waiting reporters and TV crews had hoped the 36-year-old Australian would be released yesterday but prison governor Farid Junaidi indicated she will have to wait until Monday at the earliest.

Corby is expected to move in with her older sister Mercedes and husband Wayan Widyartha, who live on the holiday island. Under the terms of the parole, she is unlikely to be able to return home to the Gold Coast before September 2017.

Last night the governor said he expected to receive all the necessary paperwork by the start of the week. Once that was complete, he would not wait another second to let Corby walk free.

If nothing has seemed certain in an extraordinary saga that has gripped Australia for much of the last decade, the same could be said of last night's press conference regarding the inmate's imminent release.

Justice Minister Amir Syamsuddin sparked confusion when he would only say Corby was among 1,291 parole applications he had dealt with. Only later was it confirmed parole had been granted.

The decision draws a line under a case that first hit the headlines when customs officers found more than 4kg of marijuana inside Corby's bodyboard bag after she arrived on the holiday island in October 2004.

Corby insisted then - and continues to insist - that she had no idea how the drugs got there.

Although the specific terms of her parole are not known, legal experts say Corby should be wary of speaking in public. TV networks and magazine publishers are locked in a million-dollar bidding war to secure the first interview.

Tim Lindsey, director of the Asian Law Centre at Melbourne University, said prisoners normally had to acknowledge guilt and express regret for their crime to get parole.
"Telling her story in ways that asserts her innocence might well create circumstances that endangers her parole," he told the ABC.

The decision came after a day of nervous waiting during which Mercedes and her husband visited Corby with three officials from the island's Australian consultate.
The couple braved a throng of reporters, photographers and TV crews; a hallmark of a harrowing case that has often played out like a tawdry soap opera.

When TV cameras captured Corby's piercing blue eyes, they usually filled with tears, and her plight attracted widespread sympathy.

Not since Lindy Chamberlain said a dingo took her baby had Australians been so captivated by an alleged wrongdoer.

Unlike the New Zealand-born mother, who was only vindicated more than 30 years after daughter Azaria disappeared, Corby tugged at the hearts of many who believed she had been the victim of a set-up.

Dubbed the "Ganja Queen" by local media, her lawyers failed to persuade a Bali court that the cannabis had been planted by a smuggling network using airport baggage handlers in Australia.

The 2005 guilty verdict sparked public anger back home, as well as calls for the suspension of aid to Indonesia and a tourism boycott of Bali.

But for Corby it was just the beginning of a nightmare ordeal inside the jail known as "Hotel K".

Sharing a cell with one squat toilet and up to 15 other prisoners, the Australian detainee suffered mental health problems that prompted fears she might commit suicide.

Her family say she reached her lowest point following the death of her father, Michael, from cancer in 2008.

The Corby family have since denied allegations he was part of a syndicate smuggling marijuana from Australia to Bali, and that Schapelle took the drugs to the island on his behalf.

The claims were made in a 2011 book, Sins of the Father, which is the basis for a new movie being screened on Australian TV tomorrow night.

Bosses at the Nine network have brought forward the premiere of Schapelle to clash with the big-budget mini-series INXS: Never Tear Us Apart on the rival Seven network.

Both networks are opening their cheque books in a bid to secure Corby's first interview.

According to The Australian, Corby's sister is busy fielding offers but the main focus to date has been solely on securing Corby's release.

"Mercedes is calling the shots and is still talking to interested parties, but at last point no dollar figures [were] in play," one network source told the paper.

When, or if, they decide to sell the story the family will have to walk a fine line.

After the 2006 release of Corby's memoir, My Story, Australian authorities moved to seize profits under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Corby had faced life behind bars until 2024, but several reductions and a successful appeal for clemency to Indonesian president Susilo Banbang Yudhoyono substantially reduced the term.

He granted a five-year reduction on the grounds of her psychological deterioration, which in turn paved the way for the parole application.

When Corby is released next week she will have served less than half her original sentence.

The justice minister stressed he had granted parole in accordance with the law, countering domestic criticism that the decision ran counter to Jakarta's anti-drug laws, which are among the toughest in the world.

Some Indonesian MPs also said it was inappropriate at a time when diplomatic relations had been strained by spying revelations and continuing tension over the Abbott government's asylum seeker policies.

- NZ Herald

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