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Published: Friday February 7, 2014 MYT 12:07:00 PM
Updated: Friday February 7, 2014 MYT 12:10:44 PM

Australian drug convict to learn Indonesia parole decision

KEROBOKAN, Indonesia, Feb 07, 2014 (AFP) - Australian drug trafficker Schapelle Corby is expected to learn Friday whether Indonesian authorities have agreed to grant her parole from a Bali prison.

Corby, whose case attracted huge public sympathy in Australia, will find out whether she is to walk free after nine years behind bars when Indonesian Justice Minister Amir Syamsuddin announces his decision in the afternoon.

She was sentenced to 20 years in jail in 2005 after being caught trying to smuggle 4.1 kilograms (nine pounds) of marijuana into the resort island of Bali hidden in her surfing gear the previous year.

Syamsuddin has said in the past he does not oppose parole for the 36-year-old although he insisted this week she will not get "special treatment".

As anticipation built in recent days that her release was imminent, hordes of Australian media have flocked to Bali and set up camp outside the infamous Kerobokan jail where she is held.

A crowd of some 60 reporters, cameramen and photographers were outside the prison Friday, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

Channel Seven has reportedly sent the biggest crew to Bali, with 17 staff dispatched from Australia and another seven locals on board.

Her sister Mercedes, with whom Corby will live on Bali if she is granted parole, arrived in the morning on a motorbike and had to fight her way through the scrum.

A media bidding war is reportedly in full swing in Australia that could see Corby earn millions of dollars for her tell-all story if she is released.

Syamsuddin has said he will strictly follow the law when deciding whether to grant Corby parole. He will base his decision on a recent assessment by a justice ministry parole board, whose views have not been made public.

"As long as she fulfils all the requirements and has the recommendation from the parole board... she will get her rights," he said.

If granted parole, Corby is expected to walk out of Kerobokan, in south Bali, within a short space of time, possibly by the weekend, after completing necessary paperwork.

But she will not be able to return to Australia until 2017. She needs to first complete her sentence and then remain in Indonesia for an additional year to fulfil the conditions of her parole.

The former beauty school student will instead live on Bali with Mercedes, who has a Balinese husband.

Corby, who has always steadfastly maintained her innocence, had her original sentence cut substantially. She received several remissions for good behaviour and a five-year reduction from the Indonesian president after an appeal for clemency.

Her parole bid was a complex, months-long process and speculation began mounting last year that she was on the verge of release, only for it to again run into problems. It sped up in the past week after the parole board finally heard her application.

The process has been complicated by the fact it is rare for Indonesia to release foreigners on parole. However Corby's bid received a boost last month when a French drug smuggler was given an early release.

While many in Australia support her early release, some in Indonesia have been against it, saying it amounts to special treatment.

Eight lawmakers on Thursday handed a letter of protest to Syamsuddin voicing opposition to Corby getting parole.

They said a decision to grant her early release would run counter to Jakarta's tough anti-drugs laws and would be inappropriate at a time when Australia-Indonesia ties were at a low after a row over spying. - AFP

Tags / Keywords: Schapelle Corby, death row, bali

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