Thursday, January 19, 2006

Schapelle Corby - Truly Bad Feng Shui

I feel truly sorry for this woman.

Schapelle Corby was convicted of drug smuggling when she was caught with 4.2 kg of marijuana at Bali airport. Her defence team was overall a classic model of disgraceful incompetency.

In tandem with her pathetic defence, the more sensationalising rating-seeking Australian media whipped Australians up into redneck behaviour against Indonesia, which didn’t help her case in the least. TV stations and radio jocks came up with idiotic accusations, insults, arguments, unbelievable theories, and grandstanding and provocative interactive shows.

Basically the image conveyed was that of an innocent Schapelle Corby framed by unscrupulous drug pushers. Then, for those diehard Aussies, who harboured an obsessive fear of their northern neighbour, there was an ugly Indonesia with dodgy laws, a rapacious foreign ogre licking its salivating jowls, ready to chomp up Australia’s white virgin princess. Corby was painted up as the most innocent lily-white sweet little girl, framed and besieged by the forces of evil.

The antics and misconduct of some of the easily provoked rednecks would have truly insulted Indonesia, when commonsense would have dictated that the unspoken rule in any court case must be for the supporters of the defence never to insult the judges who’s determining the guilt of the accused.

To cut the story short, she received 20 years – if you are interest in her case, see my previous postings on her. Subsequently the sentence was reduced to 15. But now, we learned that the Indonesian courts have reinstated the 20 years sentence following a prosecution appeal.

It’s KTemoc’s theory that her original 20 years sentence was the optimum compromise to satisfy the Indonesian factor of ‘face’. Indonesia didn't want the Australian government to lose face should Corby receive the death sentence, because of extremely generous Australian aid for Indonesian tsunami victims and the reconstruction of the devastated areas – worth Aus $1 billion. Neither did Indonesia herself wanted to lose face by being seen as going easy on a white Australian woman.

To be fair, Corby was bloody lucky to get 20 years. For the amount of marijuana she was caught with, 4.2 kg, a death sentence would not be unexpected. I dare say Indonesia’s sense of gratitude to Australia’s very generous help during Indonesia’s moment of need was a hugh influencing factor in behind-the-scene amelioration of her sentence. Obviously, such stuff could never be stated.

In fact I had even anticipated her sentence to be further reduced on each Indonesian auspicious occasions [eg. National Day celebrations], when the President traditionally would grant partial clemency to convicts by reducing their sentences. I had predicted that Corby would complete her sentence in, say, 6 to 7 years time, when she would then be released to return to Australia.

But something adverse happened since then, for the Indonesian authorities to reinstate her original sentence. While I am not suggesting the gravity of her crime didn’t deserve 20 years, I am just taken aback by a harsher Indonesian verdict on the appeal, though in retrospect not entirely shocked - I'll explain why in a moment. Poor Schapelle Corby must now suffer the terribly demoralising and heart-breaking reinstated sentence.

I wonder just how much of her bad luck has been due to another case involving Michelle Leslie, an Aussie woman as well. In that latter case, the Indonesian judges, prosecutor and police were accused of corruption when Leslie received a relatively light sentence that was already completed by the time the sentence was handed down.

It's not so much Leslie didn't merit a light sentence [in fact she did - afterall she just had a couple of ecstacy pills for personal use]. It's that the 3 judges have a scary record of handing down very severe sentences for drug cases, so Indonesian legal observers thought that the very lenient verdict for Michelle Leslie was inconsistent with their honours’ usual stern and harsh judgements, and thus, pretty dodgy. It also didn’t help that the judges’ oral judgements were perceived as unusually supportive of and sympathetic to the accused. The rumours were that as much as Aus $400,000 changed hands.

The Indonesian authorities was so embarrassed at the talk of bribery that it swiftly set up a Judicial Commission to investigate the decisions of the three sentencing judges. The Commission wanted to know why the sentence for Michelle Leslie had been so lenient. Eventually it cleared those judges of any impropriety. I won’t comment any further on this.

Could it be, because of the alleged bribery in Michelle Leslie's case, the Indonesian legal pendulum has now swung to the harsh end to prove a point, one of national pride hellbent on recovering its legal integrity and legitimacy, but with poor Corby getting the short end of a stick meant for someone else?

I have some 50 postings on the Schapelle Corby case, most of them in May and June 2005 - see my Archives, but I have selected 5 of the earlier ones to provide those who aren’t familiar with her case with a feel of how the media frenzy had done her situation much harm.

(1) Unhelpful Extra-Legal Support for Schapelle Corby
(2)Schapelle Corby - A Study in Unhelpful Media Frenzy
(3) Young, White, Pretty and has Big Boobs

(4) Schapelle Corby Case - Further Observations
(5) Schapelle Corby Case - Hell Paved with Good Intentions

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