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Australian Drug Smuggler Corby Wins Parole, Indonesia Says

Australian Schapelle Corby will be paroled after serving less than half her 20-year sentence in a Bali jail for drug smuggling, Indonesia’s law ministry said.

No release date was set for Corby, 36, in a statement released by the ministry today. The former beauty-school student was convicted in May 2005 of attempting to smuggle 4 kilograms (8.8 pounds) of marijuana into Bali.

Indonesia’s drug laws, which can carry the death penalty for importation, have at times strained relations with Australia. Nine Australians, known as the “Bali Nine” were also arrested in 2005 and convicted of attempting to smuggle eight kilograms of heroin into Indonesia. Two of them are fighting the death penalty, while the others received prison sentences.

After her October 2004 arrest in Bali, a popular holiday destination for Australians, Corby protested her innocence, saying the cannabis was planted in her surfboard bag by a drug-smuggling ring. Indonesian prosecutors had sought a life term for Corby, after telling the court they would not ask for the death penalty.

Australian media may pay about A$1 million ($894,000) for exclusive rights to interview Corby, the Australian newspaper reported today, citing industry figures it didn’t identify. She has been front-page news since the court case began, with opinion polls showing most Australians believe she is innocent. Her 2005 sentencing was televised live on three networks.

Strained Relations

Australia’s relations with Indonesia have soured in recent months as Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose Liberal-National coalition won election in September, refused to apologize after media allegations emerged Australia had spied on its Asian neighbor. Abbott also raised the ire of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono after the Australian navy breached Indonesia’s sovereignty while pursuing a policy of turning back asylum seekers arriving from the Southeast Asian nation by boat.

“I don’t want to talk specifically about Schapelle, what I want to emphasize here is that this parole is not a policy, it is not the generosity of the minister or the government, but it is a right that’s regulated in the law,” Justice Minister Amir Syamsuddin told reporters in Jakarta after the parole announcement. “It is our obligation to give that person their right as long as all regulations pertaining to giving that right have been fulfilled.”

Corby’s parole was approved alongside 1,290 other inmates, Syamsuddin said.

Indonesia is Australia’s 12th-largest trade partner, with two-way trade worth A$14.6 billion in 2012, according to Australian government figures. Australian investment in its neighbor surged 36 percent in 2012 to A$6.7 billion.

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