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After spending nine years in an Indonesian jail, Schapelle Corby has been released on parole. Australian born Schapelle was convicted of smuggling marijuana onto the tourist island and sentenced to 20 years in 2005.
Her case has attracted huge international interest and there has been a prolonged debate over her guilt or innocence and many questions have been asked about the way her trial was handled. Schapelle has always protested her innocence.
The now 36 year old, travelled to Bali in 2004 to visit her sister Mercedes, to help her celebrate her 30th birthday, a milestone she had dreaded. What was meant to be a two week break ended up as a nightmare when she was arrested at Denpasar airport after over 4 kilos of Marijuana was found in her body board bag.
Schapelle flew from Brisbane to Sydney with her bag and her body board bag before boarding a plane to Bali, her bags went through security checks at both airports. When her bag arrived at Denpasar, the strap was broken, there was no security seal and it was obvious the bag had been tampered with. Her brother dragged her bag to the security check, when he was asked by a security official if it was his bag Schapelle immediately told the officer it was her bag and opened it for inspection. Initially when the drugs were discovered it was her brother who was lead away, leaving Schapelle alone in the arrivals hall, at this point she could have just walked away. The security guard who spoke no English said, via an interpreter at her trail, that Schapelle did not want to open the bag and that she admitted the drugs where hers, something her defense team and Schapelle strongly denied, stating that if the security guard was so convinced she had admitted to having the drugs, why was she left alone in an area with access to the exit and it was her brother who was lead away.
During her trail she requested that her baggage be weighed and that weight compared to the weight registered in Sydney but that request was denied. The drugs were contained in two plastic bags that had been split open, requests for fingerprints on the outside bag were denied as the bag had been handled by officers and the fingerprint evidence was contaminated, the second interior bag was handled for the first time by the judge during the trail, consequently the request for finger prints on that bag was also turned down, as that too was now contaminated. Schapelle tested negative for drugs including marijuana. The security tapes from Denpasar airport were never made available as evidence, something that her defense team believe would have proved her innocence. The security cameras at both Sydney and Brisbane airport were not working on the day she travelled, despite a drug trafficking operation sting being carried out in Sydney. The drugs in Schapelle’s bag were never tested to find out their country of origin, and the drugs and her bags were burnt before she had chance to appeal. Despite no evidence to show that the drugs were actually imported, as they were never tested for their origin Schapelle was convicted of trafficking and started her twenty year sentence.
With no help forthcoming from the Australian government, being denied access to all of the evidence she needed to prove her innocence, and later having to cope with the death of her father Schapelle’s mental health rapidly declined during her incarceration. At one point she became catatonic and was declared insane by a prominent Australian psychiatrist. Schapelle’s sister was allowed into the jail each day to feed and dress the girl who was unable to take care of herself and who later returned to a child like state of mind, playing with a doll and asking her visiting mothers permission to go home and even go to the toilet.
The Indonesian authorities have denied that the reason for her parole was due to the rapid decline in her mental health and told the media that she was being treated in the same way as every other prisoner and that she had fulfilled the requirements needed to meet her parole conditions.
This morning Schapelle left the jail among media frenzy, she was taken to the prosecutor’s office and from there it is believe that she will be taken to her sister’s house where she will have to remain until the end of her parole period in 2017.
Schapelles supporters believe that she was the victim of a drug running scheme by baggage handlers between Brisbane and Sydney, who have been known to use traveler’s luggage to transport drugs across Australia. They believe the sting operation in Sydney on the day she travelled could be the reason the drugs were not removed in her bag and found their way to Bali.