The Australian and Indonesian governments have denied doing a deal to have five years taken off Australian drug-trafficker Schapelle Corby’s sentence in exchange for the release of Indonesian people-smugglers.
Corby, 34, had her 20-year term for smuggling marijuana into Bali reduced on Tuesday following a clemency plea to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Australian media claimed it was part of a deal in which Canberra agreed to release jailed young Indonesian people-smugglers in return.
Three Indonesian youths convicted of trafficking asylum-seekers to Australia were freed last week after being given the “benefit of the doubt” that they were minors at the time of their arrest. Another 22 cases are being reviewed.
But Foreign Minister Bob Carr denied any deal along the lines of “we will trade that for this” had been done.
“At no stage has the government sat down with our Indonesian counterparts and said, ‘We’ll release minors from our jails if you consider a clemency application by Ms Corby,'” Carr told reporters.
He acknowledged that the Indonesian government saw the issues as “linked” and Australia’s moves on the minors had given it a “level of comfort,” but insisted Canberra acted on those cases’ merits, rather than for political purposes.
“We’ve been releasing them because it’s plainly indecent to have in Australian adult jails kids from Indonesia that have been picked up on fishing boats being used for people-smuggling,” said Carr.
Indonesian presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha agreed, saying “there’s no such deal for Corby’s clemency” and though Indonesia would “greatly appreciate a policy of leniency” for the minors it was a matter for Canberra.
Corby’s sister Mercedes expressed her gratitude for Yudhoyono’s decision, saying outside Kerobokan Prison that the family now hoped for “positive news” about parole.
Her reduced sentence is due to expire on 2017 and mother, Rosleigh Rose, said she would fly to Bali in July in the hope of bringing her daughter home.
“It feels like I want to bawl but I can’t. We’ve been up before but we just have to keep calm,” she said.
Carr declined to comment on the implications for other Australians imprisoned in Indonesia, including the heroin smugglers known as the Bali Nine, two of whom are on death row.
Canberra would likely support a bid for Corby to be paroled “on humanitarian grounds given her health problems,” he added, referring to her lawyers’ claims that her time in the notorious Kerobokan prison had sent her insane.
Indonesia enforces stiff penalties, including life imprisonment and death, for drug trafficking.