By Novar Caine
Since the trial days of Schapelle Corby, the practice among supporters of jumping up and screaming has continued. It undoubtedly harmed her chances back in 2005 and it’s doing her no favours today, either. Reason – and manners – is thrown out and rampant hysteria, frequently foul-mouthed, takes its place. Dissenters are silenced.
What has happened to Schapelle Corby, who is now 33, is a tragedy for any young person, whether it was one of her making or not. We can speculate ad infinitum about whether she is innocent or guilty of bringing 4.2 kilograms of marijuana into Bali in 2004 – a victim of a drug ring, an unwitting mule; or a real player – but all we can go on is the law of the land and the verdict of its courts.
There is no doubting that Schapelle has an appeal that other inmates at Kerobokan Prison do not. There are other Australians behind bars there, three of them on death row, where an African man also lingers. They were all convicted by the Denpasar District Court of drugs crimes. But yet there are no campaigns to free them, no loud voices of protest at their jailing.
Could it be, as has often been promulgated, that Corby fits the veridical image of a feeble damsel in disquietude, a good-looking, wide-eyed girl wronged by an unscrupulous land? Could this all be one giant mistake?
Indonesian jurisprudence has many flaws; of that there is no mistake. But in criminal matters, all the more so concerning those under an intense foreign-media spotlight, there exist three avenues of appeal after the originating court’s verdict; and if all those fail, should you be of a mind, you can appeal to the president for a pardon. This legal ladder is in place to ensure that every possible argument and piece of evidence, however late in being uncovered, is made available for judges to examine.
Apart from that, in Australians’ cases, a framework has been constructed that may allow for their repatriation to serve their time in Australian prisons. The proposed system has long been stalled, however, at parliamentary level in Jakarta. Indonesian politicians, it seems, don’t see the need for special treatment, even if Australia is a vital diplomatic, security and trade partner.
Also potentially in their favour are fervent negotiations with their counterparts in Indonesia by top Australian officials, including Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her foreign minister, Kevin Rudd. They don’t want to see Australians standing before firing squads in Indonesia, because Australia doesn’t have or support capital punishment (and particularly given the Australian Federal Police’s tip-off role about the Bali Nine who were trying to fly themselves and a great deal of heroin to Australia).
Who knows what will happen to Schapelle. For years now a pattern of claims has been emerging, chiefly by way of family members, that she is suffering mental distress at her incarceration. That’s understandable. Being locked up is no picnic; it’s not supposed to be fun. She has served more than a quarter of her sentence and been granted remissions on national and religions holidays because of her good behaviour.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, in weighing his clemency decision, will be mindful of a triad of issues: The courts’ verdicts; lobbying by Australian leaders; and the rise in foreigners’ arrests over drugs in Bali. The Supreme Court last year reportedly made a recommendation that Corby’s sentence be significantly slashed, which will undoubtedly guide the president.
While that is happening, and whatever the outcome, Corby’s supporters must begin to understand that their fanatical shrieking is unhelpful, to the woman they support and to themselves. By all means continue your campaign, but do so with decency and respect.
And in the meantime, anyone even considering involvement in drug smuggling should force themselves to acknowledge that there is a very real probability they will be discovered and, in many parts of Southeast Asia, may end up paying with their lives.
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