BALI, Indonesia: An Australian woman convicted of smuggling marijuana into Indonesia’s tourist island of Bali walked free from nine years in jail on Monday after being given parole, the latest chapter in what has been a media sensation in Australia.
Schapelle Corby’s case captured the imagination of many in Australia, where initial sympathy for her plight and nationalist outrage in the aftermath of two terrorist attacks targeting Australian interests in Indonesia made for a potent combination for popular and highbrow media alike.
The 35-year-old said nothing as she left Bali’s Kerobokan prison through a large crowd of reporters.
She wore a hat and had a scarf covering her face.
Her release from prison was carried live on TV networks across Australia and plastered on websites of the nation’s major newspapers. Corby’s mother, Rosleigh Rose, briefly emerged from her Queensland home to spray champagne and whoop with glee.
“It was just beautiful to see my beautiful Schapelle come out from those doors,” Rose told Australia’s Channel 7 news while clutching a glass of champagne.
Corby was convicted of smuggling 4.2 kilograms (9 pounds) of marijuana onto Bali in a boogie board bag and sentenced to 20 years in prison. In 2010, she asked for clemency, citing her poor mental state. Two years later, Indonesia’s president cut her sentence by five years.
Under the terms of her parole, Corby will have to stay in Bali and cannot return to Australia until 2017.
Narratives of Westerners in Asian jails have always been popular in their home countries, and Australia is no exception. Initially at least, many Australians appeared to believe Corby was innocent, though that view become less commonly heard over time.
Her case coincided with intense coverage and commentary in Australia into the investigation into the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians. Many people questioned the fairness of the trial and the length of her sentence compared to some of those convicted of minor roles in relation to the Bali bombings.
At least two other Australians are on death row in Indonesian drug smuggling cases, and several are serving long prison terms. They have received much less coverage that the Coby case.