Schapelle Corby’s dream of freedom, Australian skies, and babies may well be one step closer, thanks to the Indonesian president’s decision to slash her jail sentence by five years.
But friends believe Schapelle, 34, is now so mentally ill in Bali’s Kerobokan prison, that she may not even realize that freedom is close.
“Schapelle asked her mum if she was really her mother. She told her that people can be made up to look like her mum with makeup. She kept asking, ‘Are you really my mum?’ Women For Schapelle spokesperson, Louise Hopkin reported after a jail visit 18 months ago. Since then, we’ve been told, her mental condition has only continued to deteriorate.
Even so, supporters are overjoyed that Schapelle, who has spent eight years behind bars, has had her 20 year term , for smuggling more than four kilos of marijuana into Bali, chopped to the point that she’ll soon have expert treatment and support.
According to the University of Melbourne’s director of the Asian Law Centre, Professor Tim Lindsey, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s decision also “provides a ray of hope” for Australia’s so-called Bali Nine.
“This suggests the Indonesian president is stepping away from his previous hardline approach, in which he said he’d not exercise clemency towards drug dealers,” says Professor Lindsey.
The decision to lop five years off Schappelle’s sentence was clearly Indonesia’s response to Australia’s decision to release several young fishermen involve in people smuggling.
“The president is entitled to take any decision he wants,” he says.
Professor Lindsey says Jakarta is increasingly concerned about the welfare of its poor citizens overseas, in light of recent, highly publicized cases involving maltreatment toward low-income Indonesians abroad.
“The plight of its people overseas is something the Indonesians take seriously. So, this current move by Australia to release the young Indonesians has worked well for Schapelle.”
But, he says, it’s not ideal that such momentous decisions involving Australians jailed in Indonesia rely on the ramifications of other matters.
“If the final bid for clemency for the two Australians on death row, occurs during an abbatoir row or a live terrorist attack, what then?” he ponders.
Such cases should not rely on the latest lurch in the state of our bilateral relationship, he argues.
Instead, Indonesia and Australia needed to work together on upgrading laws in each country which would lead to better systems for managing prisoners from each other’s countries.
Work was urgently needed on perfecting extradition treaties between the countries,” and we need to help Indonesia improve their prisons. There’s a lot to be done. And it’s overdue. The two countries will always have people in each other’s jails.”
As for Schapelle’s lengthy sentence, he says “by Indonesian terms, she has had a ‘middle of the road’ sentence. We’d consider it harsh, but it’s not especially severe for an Indonesian drug sentence. She could quite easily have been given life or 40 years jail.”
He says that in some ways, “the Indonesian system is not particularly unusual or different to other legal systems. Schapelle almost certainly would have been convicted of drug possession if she’d been caught with drugs on her, back in Australia. If you’re caught in possession of drugs, the burden of proof is on you to prove that they’re not yours. That’s the same in Australian and in Indonesia.”
Sadly for Schapelle, plenty of Australians don’t really care whether she’s let out of prison or not, any time soon. Asked in a Fairfax poll “Is it time Schapelle Corby came home, 47 per cent said “No.”