KEROBOKAN, Indonesia: Australian drug trafficker Schapelle Corby was released from an Indonesian prison on parole Monday after more than nine years behind bars, racing past hordes of waiting journalists as scores of police stood guard.
The 36-year-old covered her face with a scarf and hat as she was ushered into a minibus waiting outside Kerobokan jail on the resort island of Bali, as camera crews and photographers fought to get a shot of her.
Corby, whose case has drawn huge fascination in Australia since she was caught entering Bali in 2004 with marijuana stashed in her surfing gear, sped off to complete final administrative steps for her release, with journalists giving chase.
Dressed in a white blouse and jeans, she headed to the prosecutors' office and then to the corrections office, part of the justice ministry which will oversee her parole, trying to keep her face covered at all times.
At the corrections office, she signed papers agreeing to her parole conditions. Despite her face being obscured, she could be seen dabbing at her eyes with a tissue, an AFP reporter at the scene said.
Her release dominated Australian TV networks on Monday morning, with every second of her release broadcast live to all those who have followed the case minutely.
As expected Corby did not comment on her release, as a bidding war is reportedly in full swing in Australia for her first post-jail interview. However Kerobokan prison governor Farid Junaidi said she seemed fine.
"She was fine when she left, only a little anxious and she asked why there were so many people and reporters," he told journalists outside the jail.
Journalists have been camped outside Kerobokan jail for the past week in anticipation of her release, with one Australian television network alone having reportedly dispatched 17 staff.
Indonesian Justice Minister Amir Syamsuddin announced on Friday that Corby, who has always maintained her innocence, had been granted parole following a drawn-out process that repeatedly ran into bureaucratic hurdles.
The move was welcomed in Australia but drew protests from Indonesian lawmakers and an anti-drugs group, who said it went against the country's tough anti-narcotics laws.
Syamsuddin defended the move, saying that parole was a "right regulated by law".
Mental health problems in jail
Following her release, Corby will not be able to return to Australia until 2017. Her sentence ends in 2016 and then she will be required to stay for another year to comply with the conditions of her parole.
During this period, Corby is expected to live on the resort island with her sister Mercedes, who has a Balinese husband.
She will also have to report regularly to authorities in Bali and will be allowed to travel to other parts of Indonesia but only with prior permission from the authorities.
Corby, who has always insisted that the 4.1 kilos (nine pounds) of marijuana found in her body board bag were planted, will emerge a changed woman after years in Kerobokan prison.
Prisoners typically live side by side in overcrowded cells, and drug abuse, fighting between inmates and beatings by jail wardens are reportedly common.
She has suffered from mental health problems in prison and needed hospital treatment for depression.
Corby was convicted and jailed for 20 years in 2005.
The end of her sentence was brought forward to 2016 after she received several remissions for good behaviour, and a five-year cut following an appeal for clemency to the Indonesian president.
Her parole bid was a complex, months-long process which repeatedly ran into bureaucratic hurdles. The process sped up in the past week when a justice ministry parole board in Jakarta finally heard her case.
Her application included letters of support from the Australian government, as well as her family, the head of the Balinese village where she will live and Kerobokan prison.
In prison Corby lived alongside other foreigners sentenced under Indonesia's tough anti-narcotics laws, from people caught with small quantities of drugs at parties to those attempting to smuggle huge stashes into the island. -AFP