Indonesia cuts Australian drug trafficker Schapelle Corby's sentence for prisoner swap


Convicted Australian drug trafficker Schapelle Corby (C) is escorted by police to a court room in Denpasar, on Bali island, 25 August 2006.


Jewel Samad

Indonesia slashed the 20-year jail term of convicted Australian drug smuggler Schapelle Corby in return for the release of Indonesians charged with people smuggling in Australia, a government minister has said.

Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono today approved a five-year cut to Corby's original 20-year sentence, Australia's ABC reported.

Corby, 34, a former trainee beauty therapist, was convicted for drug smuggling in 2005 after 9 pounds of marijuana was found in her bag at Denpasar airport in Bali in 2004.

Corby has maintained her innocence, insisting the drugs must have been planted as she had no knowledge of them.

She has previously been granted other cuts, with the Indonesian judicial system allowing prisoners to request sentence reductions, generally for good behavior, the Guardian wrote

Owing to good behavior, Corby may now end up serving 11 of 20 years, earning release in 2015, the Fairfax media reported.

Indonesia's minister for the state secretriat, Sudi Silalahi, said that while the decision was also partly on humanitarian grounds — given Corby's reported fragile mental state — it came in light of Australia's return of several young Indonesians accused of crewing asylum seeker boats.

And Indonesia's law and human rights minister, Amir Syamsudin, told the ABC that Corby's prison term should encourage Australia to release more young Indonesians held on people smuggling charges.

However, Foreign Minister Bob Carr denied the release of suspected people smugglers was part of any deal on Corby.  

He acknowledged, however, that their release may have built "goodwill" between the countries.

According to the ABC, he said: "The decision to return youngsters who are in prison here was done because of the merit of that case, and it certainly wasn't done with any reference to the position of Ms Corby or any other Australians in a similar situation in the prisons of Indonesia."

Regardless, he thanked Indonesia for Corby's early release.

"I welcome the Indonesian president's decision to grant this reduction," Carr said.

"The Australian Government has consistently supported Ms Corby's application for clemency on humanitarian grounds."

Corby's lawyer, Iskandar Nawing, had said that Corby's mental health had deteriorated while in jail, the BBC reported.

She is housed in Kerobokan prison, built to hold 300 prisoners but currently holding about 1,000.

Indonesia also holds a number of other foreign nationals, including members of a heroin smuggling ring called the "Bali Nine," whose sentences range from 15 years in jail to death.

Reuters cited Indonesian Justice Minister Amir Syamsuddin as also arguing that Corby's conviction was "not related to heroin or other heavy drugs."

"It was purely marijuana and the marijuana didn't weigh hundreds of kilograms," he said.