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Home >> World
UPDATED: 14:49, May 27, 2005
Australian drug smuggler gets 20 years in jail in Indonesia
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The Indonesian court in Bali Friday morning sentenced 27-year-old Australian beauty therapist Schapelle Corby to 20 years' imprisonment for trafficking 4.1 kilograms of marijuana into the resort island last year, which is much less than the life imprisonment proposed by the prosecutors.

The court rendered the student from a beauty school in Gold Coast, Queensland, guilty of smuggling the marijuana in her body- surfboard bag through the holiday paradise's main international airport last October.

Both lawyers and prosecutors said that they will appeal to a higher court.

Meanwhile, Corby maintained her innocence and said that her only crime was not putting locks on her bag to protect it from tampering and the drugs found by airport officials in her bag were not hers, but planted there.

Corby's Australian lawyer Robin Tampoe claimed that she was the unwitting victim of an Australian gang that used her luggage to transport marijuana on a domestic flight but failed to remove it before she flew on to Indonesia.

Drug smuggling is punishable by death under Indonesian law. However, prosecutors only asked for a sentence of life in prison. Therefore, her case has drawn much attention from both countries' leaders and government officials.

Corby once told her prime minister through the press: "Mr Howard, as a father and as a leader, I plead for your help. I did not do this. I beg for justice."

Howard responded by saying that he would not interfere with Indonesia's judicial process, but hope the ruling to be true, fair, reasonable and just.

Australian Justice Minister Chris Ellison once asked Indonesian Attorney-General Abdurrahman Saleh at a meeting in Jakarta recently not to seek the death penalty if Corby is convicted.

"I indicated to the Indonesian attorney-general that Australia was opposed to the death penalty and that in the event of Schapella Corby being found guilty we would plead with the Indonesian Government that the death penalty not be sought," Ellison told the press.

Linton Sirait, chief judge in the case, said the court had received a letter sent by the Australian Government, but he was unsure if it will have any influence on the trial.

"I don't know if this will influence the verdict or not. No more evidence can be accepted at this point after the sentencing demand," Sirait told reporters at the Denpasar District court.

As the trial was concluded on Friday, some hope can still be cherished by Corby for a transfer back to her homeland and serve her imprisonment there.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer once said that he was discussing a transfer deal with Indonesian authorities.

Downer said that his proposed prisoner transfer arrangement was not aimed specifically at Corby, but admitted that the government of Prime Minister John Howard has been under intense pressure to act on Corby's behalf.

On May 19, Indonesia said that it was willing to make a prisoner transfer deal with Australia, possibly paving the way for Corby to serve her sentence in her own country.

Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda said that he has not received a formal letter from Australia regarding a prisoner transfer, but that his government will consider it.

"In the practices of international relations, the handing over of convicts to their original country is not a strange thing....We are open, but what is needed is an agreement on transfer of prisoners that is effective in general." Wirayuda said.

Meanwhile, the case has received massive attention in Australia. Friday's sentence was carried live on local television, the culmination of saturation coverage that has not been seen in local media for decades.

Through television, the Australians saw Corby break down in tears on the stand one day, sobbing that she did not know how long she could cope with the stress of her imprisonment.

She was also seen delivering a rousing plea for mercy to the judges on the final day of submissions: "My life at the moment is in your hands, but I'd prefer it if my life was in your hearts."

According to polls conducted by Australian media, more than 90 percent of the participants felt sorry for Corby, thought her innocent and wanted her back to home.

Many Australians, who regard Bali as their tropical playground, believed that they could innocently find themselves in Corby's situation.

The case has also put Bali under the spotlight, with Indonesia's police chief labeling it a hub for international drug trafficking syndicates.

Indonesian police arrested nine Australians last month and 20 in the past five years in Bali for alleged heroin trafficking. Some of them have yet to face trial.

Police suspected that a well-organized gang from Australia has been manipulating drug trafficking through Bali to Australian cities.

The trial came at a time of improved ties between Jakarta and Canberra. In April, Indonesian President Susilio Banbang Yudhoyono concluded an official visit to Australia and signed a framework agreement with Howard to develop partnership between the two countries.

Indonesian Ambassador to Australia Imlan Kordan once told the press that the Corby case will not affect the Australian- Indonesian ties which is becoming better and better in these days.

Source: Xinhua

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