April 17, 2011

Corby sniffs freedom

Corby sniffs freedom

INDONESIA'S Supreme Court has recommended Schapelle Corby's prison sentence be cut to 10 years which, if accepted, means the convicted cannabis smuggler would be freed immediately, her lawyer says.

Arrested 6½ years ago when a customs officer found more than four kilograms of high-grade marijuana in her bodyboard bag at Bali airport, Corby has lost a succession of legal appeals. A clemency request to Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is her last opportunity to overturn her 20-year prison sentence.

Under Indonesian law, applications for presidential clemency are first assessed by the Supreme Court, which provides formal guidance to the leader to either reject or accept.

The court's recommendation for Corby was handed to Dr Yudhoyono in July. Its contents have been the subject of speculation ever since. Citing a ''source from the Supreme Court'', Corby's lawyer, Iskandar Nawing, told The Sun-Herald: ''The Supreme Court has recommended 10 years be cut from her sentence. If the President signs off on it, with the time Corby has served already, she will be eligible for parole. I will immediately make the arrangement based on the clemency.''

Neither the Supreme Court nor Dr Yudhoyono's state secretariat would comment on Mr Iskandar's claims, nor confirm when Dr Yudhoyono would make a decision.

Corby's clemency appeal, lodged more than a year ago, relies heavily on assessments by two psychiatrists that she is mentally ill, suffering from ''heavy depression with psychotic symptoms'' and is ''deteriorating''. It also maintains she is innocent and the cannabis was slipped into the bodyboard bag without her knowledge.

Documents lodged by Corby's legal team for the clemency bid ask Dr Yudhoyono's ''forgiveness'' and state that Corby, as a beauty school student, had a ''bright reputation and record of achievement''.

''Schapelle Leigh Corby's situation is unique,'' they say. ''It's possible she's the only Australian citizen with severe mental problems serving a very long prison term in another country.''

Corby has received cuts of about 18 months from her 20-year sentence so far but last year entered an accelerated remission program. She is now eligible for an eight-month reduction each year, as long as she behaves well.

A report last year by Kerobokan prison's governor, Siswanto, outlined Corby's battle with mental illness, confirmed she was on medication and listed 10 instances of ''out-of-ordinary behaviour, including vandalising an office in the prison in an apparent fit of rage''.

However, it also noted she ''pretends to be crazy'' whenever a new prison chief takes over.

Even if Corby was not released immediately after any acceptance of her clemency by Dr Yudhoyono, it is likely she would be freed soon after.