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AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati
Banged up abroad

Australian surfer caught with marijuana in Bali released after 9 years in prison

Schapelle Corby has always insisted the 4.1 kg of marijuana found in her body board bag was planted there.

AUSTRALIAN DRUG TRAFFICKER Schapelle Corby, her face veiled against a horde of press photographers, was hustled out of prison today to start the next chapter of her troubled life after more than nine years behind bars in Bali.

The 36-year-old, who is now out on parole, covered her face with a scarf and hat as she was ushered into a minibus waiting outside Kerobokan jail on the resort island, as camera crews and photographers fought to get a shot of her.

Corby, whose case has drawn huge fascination in Australia since she was caught entering Bali in 2004 with marijuana stashed in her surfing gear, sped off to complete final administrative steps for her release, with journalists giving chase.

After visiting government officials who will oversee her parole in Indonesia, where she must remain until 2017, she was whisked away by a black SUV to a luxury resort and spa in the popular Seminyak district.

A bidding war has heated up in recent days for her first post-jail interview and a second black car containing a TV crew raced into the resort after Corby, while the rest of the following media pack were barred from entering.

As expected the former beauty school student, whose proclamations of innocence and battle with depression in prison drew great sympathy in Australia, did not comment but one official said she seemed upset.

“We asked her how she was. She cried and said she was still feeling traumatised due to all the journalists,” said Agung Bagus Kusimantara, from the Bali prosecutors’ office.

The media have been camped outside Kerobokan jail for the past week in anticipation of her release, with one Australian television network alone having reportedly dispatched 17 staff.

In Australia her release dominated TV networks and sparked celebrations at the home of her mother, Rosleigh Rose, in Loganlea, in the northeastern state of Queensland.

imageAustralian Schapelle Corby, center, is escorted by prison guards to the prosecutor office after she received her parole in Bali. Pic: (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)

Champagne and cheers

The sound of cheers could be heard from the family’s backyard and Rose appeared briefly outside to pop a champagne cork in front of journalists, although she refused to comment.

Indonesian Justice Minister Amir Syamsuddin announced on Friday that Corby had been granted parole following a drawn-out process that repeatedly ran into bureaucratic hurdles.

The move was welcomed in Australia but drew protests from Indonesian lawmakers and an anti-drugs group, who said it went against the country’s tough anti-narcotics laws.

Following her release, Corby will not be able to return to Australia until 2017. Her sentence ends in 2016 and then she will be required to stay for another year to comply with the conditions of her parole.

Despite having first headed for the luxury Seminyak resort, during her parole Corby is expected to live on the resort island with her sister Mercedes, who has a Balinese husband.

Ketut Artha, head of the Bali corrections office, part of the justice ministry which will oversee her parole, said he had talked to her about her release conditions during a 20-minute meeting.

“I told her that she should be good and not break the rules,” he said, adding she would have to report to the office every month.

Corby, who has always insisted that the 4.1 kg of marijuana found in her body board bag were planted, will emerge a changed woman after years in Kerobokan prison.

Prisoners typically live side by side in overcrowded cells where drug abuse, fighting between inmates and beatings by jail wardens are reportedly common.

She has suffered from mental health problems in prison and needed hospital treatment for depression.

Corby was convicted and jailed for 20 years in 2005.

The end of her sentence was brought forward to 2016 after she received several remissions for good behaviour, and a five-year cut following an appeal for clemency to the Indonesian president.

Her parole bid was a complex, months-long process which repeatedly ran into bureaucratic hurdles. The process sped up in recent weeks when a justice ministry parole board in Jakarta finally heard her case.

Her application included letters of support from the Australian government, as well as her family, the head of the Balinese village where she will live and Kerobokan prison.

© – AFP 2014

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