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Bali court sentences Australia's Corby to 20 yrs in jail

Tomi Soetjipto, Reuters, 27th May 2005

An Indonesian court on Friday sentenced Australian beauty therapist Schapelle Corby to 20 years in jail for trying to smuggle 4.1 kg (9 lb) of marijuana into Bali, triggering outrage from her family and friends.

“The panel of judges declares the defendant legally and convincingly guilty of the crime of illegal importation of narcotics,” judge Linton Sirait told a hearing watched live across Australia, where the case has transfixed the nation.

As soon as Sirait read the verdict, Corby’s mother, Rosleigh Rose, shouted at the three judges on the panel: “Liar, liar. Honey, we are going to take you home.”

Corby turned to her mother and pleaded with her to calm down. “Mum, stop, it’s okay,” she cried, holding her hand up in the air in a motion for her mother to stop yelling.

Standing to hear the verdict and wearing pink trousers and a black blouse, Corby occasionally slapped her forehead with her palm in grief. She struggled to contain her emotions and at times became angry.

Prosecutors had demanded life in jail for Corby, 27, who has repeatedly argued the drugs found by airport officials in her unlocked bag on the famous holiday island last year were not hers and that they were planted.

Corby’s family said they would appeal.

Earlier, officials whisked Corby into the court through a side entrance, avoiding scores of journalists.

“She’s probably the worst I’ve ever seen her,” Corby’s Australian lawyer Robin Tampoe earlier told Australian television on Friday ahead of the court session.

The court had leeway to disregard the prosecutors’ demand and sentence Corby to death if she was found guilty.

Corby’s trial has gripped Australia. Her plight has also triggered a series of threats against Indonesian diplomatic missions in the country.

Her lawyers have insisted many people could have put the drugs into their client’s bodyboard bag along the way from Brisbane to Bali, especially because it was not locked.

Corby, from Australia’s eastern Gold Coast, changed planes in Sydney and her defence team has said she was the victim of a drug ring running narcotics from Brisbane to Sydney.

For some reason, the drugs were not removed from her bag in Sydney, the defence has said.

PLEA FROM PRIME MINISTER
Australian Prime Minister John Howard said this month the government had written to the court to detail new allegations against Australian airport baggage handlers following the arrest of 15 people in Australia on charges of importing drugs.

Howard has said he would not interfere with the Indonesian justice system but that he hoped the Bali court would deliver a “true and fair and just verdict”.

The trial comes at a time of improved ties between Jakarta and Canberra. Some analysts had said a death sentence on Corby could strain relations.

Indonesia, like many Asian nations, imposes tough penalties for drug offences.

Last week, Indonesia asked Australian police to boost security at its diplomatic and consular missions ahead of the verdict.

The Indonesian Embassy in Canberra has said its diplomats and consular officials around Australia had received threats by mail and e-mail about the Corby case.

In April, bullets were sent to the Indonesian consulate in the West Australian city of Perth along with a letter containing a warning that staff would be killed unless Corby was freed.

The two countries have discussed a possible prisoner swap agreement, under which Corby might be able to serve time in Australia if she is convicted.

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

Indonesian police arrested nine Australians last month in Bali for alleged heroin trafficking. They have yet to face trial.


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