- The Washington Times - Friday, May 27, 2005

BALI, Indonesia — An Australian woman was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison yesterday for smuggling nine pounds of marijuana onto Indonesia’s Bali island, prompting her mother to shout “liar” at the judge and her nation’s prime minister to express sympathy.

Schapelle Corby, 27, wept as the verdict was announced. She could have faced the death penalty, but prosecutors requested a life sentence.

Corby’s mother, Rosleigh Rose, yelled, “liar, liar,” and had to be restrained in the front row of the courtroom gallery. Other relatives shouted, “We are going to get you home. We love you.”

Corby turned to her tearful parents and mouthed, “Just relax. It’s OK.”

Corby’s case was closely watched in Australia, where actor Russell Crowe said last month that photographs of the beauty school student during her trial “broke my heart.”

Australia had pressed Jakarta to avoid a death penalty and allow her to serve any prison sentence back home.

After the verdict was announced, the Australian government offered to send two senior lawyers to help Corby’s appeal and said it would begin negotiating with Jakarta on a prisoner transfer pact.

“Guilty or innocent, I feel for this young woman,” Prime Minister John Howard said. “I ask that we all pause and understand the situation and recognize and respect that when we visit other countries we are subject to the laws and rules of those countries.”

Corby was arrested in October after airport authorities found the marijuana in her surfboard bag as she arrived in Bali for a family holiday.

Corby’s lawyers said the drugs were planted by airport baggage handlers in Australia as part of a drug-smuggling operation and that they ended up in Bali by mistake.

But judges at the Denpasar District Court said the defense produced no convincing evidence to support that claim.

Judge Wayan Suastrawan noted that customs officers testified that Corby looked “nervous” and “tried not to open the bag” when asked to by customs officials, adding: “Judges are of the opinion that the accused imported marijuana. She was arrested red-handed at the airport.”

Before the hearing, Corby’s lawyers said she was “terrified.”

“She’s probably the worst I’ve ever seen her,” lawyer Robin Tampoe told Australian television’s Nine Network. “She tries to put on a brave face, but there was a lot of crying.”

After the judges issued the sentence, Corby was allowed to hug her weeping parents before being led away to jail by about 20 police officers.

Corby could have faced the death penalty under Indonesia’s tough anti-drug laws, which do not distinguish between marijuana and harder drugs like heroin or cocaine.

Indonesia, which like Australia imprisons scores of foreigners for drug smuggling each year, says it sees no need to grant Corby any special exemptions.

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