Friday, May 27, 2005

Schapelle Corby - Behind the Scene

The Indonesian Court in Bali delivered a guilty verdict in the Schapelle Corby case, where the 27-year old Australian was accused of importing illegal narcotics into Indonesia, after she was apprehended at Denpasar airport, Bali, with more than 4 kg of marijuana in her boogie board bag. However, the court sentenced her to 20 years imprisonment rather than the life sentence that many experts had predicted.

She had been charged on 3 counts, with the first relating to importation and distribution of narcotics which carried the heaviest sentence, death or at least life sentence; the other two charges related to possession and carry 20 and 15 years sentences respectively.

While many Australians cursed and criticised the verdict as indicative of the unfairness, corruption and incompetency that exist in the Indonesian justice system, law experts in Australia thought the Indonesian court in the case was fair and in accordance to the European system of law (as different from the Commonwealth adversarial system inherited from the British), very tolerant of her defence team’s fumblings and the uncalled-for adverse publicity campaign in Australia against the Indonesian justice system, and finally, very gentle on her. These law experts considered the 20 years sentence, by Indonesian standards for a narcotic case, has been relatively light.

She and the prosecution have two further opportunities to appeal. In the meanwhile the Australian government is attempting to work out a prisoner-exchange programme with the Indonesian government to enable Corby to serve her sentence in Australia, but the Indonesians do not want the arrangement to be exclusively for one person only, namely Corby, as had been the intention of Canberra. Jakarta stated that any such programmes must apply as a general policy and not be peculiar to only one individual.

In the last few days prior to today’s verdict, the truth seemed to be spilling out that her so-called advisers had not advised her wisely, but rather detrimentally to her case. Her situation had not been helped by the cheap emotion-raking rating-seeking so-called documentaries. Even though the Indonesian prosecution had confirmed sometime ago he won’t be seeking the death sentence, an Australian TV Channel and one of her backers had continued to refer to that draconian penalty as a possible verdict, obviously to horrify and fan Australian emotions. It’s really a disgraceful and deceitful tactic.

One particular person who claimed to be championing her cause has had pointed questions aimed at his business past and motives, for example, like establishing a company in her name with himself as the SOLE director, secretary and SHAREHOLDER!

The same person also proposed to start a million dollar fund to investigate further into possible illegal use of her bag by drug smugglers and offered to donate the first 100,000 dollars, but neither the fund nor his $100,000 contribution exists today. He apologised for forgetting about it!!!

I do not propose to criticise further the unhelpful media frenzy in Australia, purportedly rallying support on her behalf, or the questionable actions and advice of her support team, other than to summarise them as unhelpful to her.

In the end, it has been the Australian government who picked up her bill, and will be picking up her appeal bill again including the offer of legal experts (as was offered to her initially).

I have only one advice for Schapelle Corby - keep clear of charlatans and snake-oil salespersons, and stick to your more reliable Aussie government.

Professor Tim Lindsay, professor of Asian law, director of the Asian Law Centre at the University of Melbourne, one of the cooler Australian heads around, has this to say – recommended reading for a very balanced view.

Neil McMahon wrote a comparative study of two Australian women, Schapelle Corby, loved and adored by an emotional Australian public, against the case of Lindy Chamberlain, hated and damned by Australians for years before her innocence was eventually proven. It's also a study of the power of Western media.

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