Schapelle Corby, an Australian who has spent more than seven years in a Bali jail on a drug smuggling conviction, had her sentence reduced by five years, Australia’s Foreign Minister Bob Carr said.
“I welcome the Indonesian president’s decision to grant this reduction,” Carr said in an e-mailed statement, without saying when she may be freed. “The Australian government has consistently supported Ms Corby’s application for clemency on humanitarian grounds.”
Corby, a beauty school student, was convicted in 2005 of attempting to smuggle 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds) of marijuana into Bali, a popular holiday destination among Australians. Corby, now 34, protested her innocence, saying the drugs were planted in her surfboard bag by a drug-smuggling ring in Australia.
Indonesian prosecutors had sought a life term for Corby, after telling the court they would not seek the death penalty. She was sentenced to 20 years.
Carr rejected speculation that Corby’s clemency was the result of a deal between Australia and Indonesia after Indonesian minors alleged to have been involved in people smuggling in Australian waters were recently freed.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has visited Australia three times, more than any of his predecessors, according to the government in Canberra. Two-way trade between the nations reached A$13.8 billion ($13.5 billion) in the year to June 30.
“The relationship with Indonesia has never been better,” Carr told reporters in Sydney today. “In President Yudhoyono we’ve got a strong friend of Australia who listens to our concerns.”
Corby has been front-page news in Australian newspapers since the court case began, with opinion polls showing most Australians believe she is innocent. Her 2005 sentencing was televised live in Australia on three networks.
Corby has been accumulating remissions and may end up serving 11 of the 20-year sentence, earning release in 2015, the Age newspaper said today. Parole could bring that date forward even earlier, it said.
“The next step is for her legal team to work out what can be done about a bid for parole,” Carr said.
Bali attracts more than a third of all visitors to Indonesia with a mix of nightlife and surfing in the southern beach resorts. More than 648,000 Australian tourists traveled to the region in the first eight months of last year, five times more than in 2006, according to the Bali Tourism Board.
Indonesia’s drug laws, which can carry the death penalty for importation, have at times strained relations with Australia.
Nine Australians, known as the “Bali Nine” were also arrested in 2005 and convicted of attempting to smuggle eight kilograms of heroin into Indonesia. Three of the nine were given a death sentence and three were jailed for life.
“Clearly we have been making representations to the Indonesians, as we do with anyone in a country convicted of a crime that in that country carries the death penalty,” then Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean said in 2010, according to a transcript of an interview with ABC 774 Radio Melbourne. “We make the point we don’t support the death penalty.”
Australian government officials also stepped in when a 14- year-old boy was convicted of drug possession last year and sentenced to two months confinement. The teenager was arrested with 3.6 grams of marijuana on Oct. 4 and released in December.
To contact the reporter on this story: Joe Schneider in Sydney at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Greg Ahlstrand at email@example.com