The Indonesian government minister who holds Schapelle Corby’s fate in his hands has virtually guaranteed the convicted drug smuggler will be granted parole when the recommendation hits his desk.
”The record of Schapelle Corby is good, and if a good person serves her sentence, well, we automatically have to give her rights,” Justice and Human Rights Minister Amir Syamsuddin told Fairfax Media on Thursday.
Mr Amir, who is likely to finally sign Corby’s parole application within the next fortnight, has also given some hope to the two Bali nine drug smugglers on death row and revealed that, on a trip to Australia earlier this month, he paid a mercy visit to an Indonesian drug smuggler serving time in an Australian maximum security prison.
Mr Amir implied that Corby’s parole was a done deal.
”I’ll give Schapelle Corby her rights, not because of me but because of the regulation, because of the law,” he said.
”She can receive [parole] as long as there is someone who guarantees her. I know that the embassy has guaranteed her behaviour and I know there are other parties who have also already given guarantees.”
However, Mr Amir said letting Corby out of Kerobokan prison would cause him political pain, because anti-drug activists accuse the administration of president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of kowtowing to Australian pleas for leniency for Australian drug convicts.
”The minister is attacked politically for that. I take the risk. But I’m not afraid that I’ll be unpopular as long as I implement the law … I don’t give special treatment, I simply carry out the law.”
He also drew a direct link between Corby’s expectation of parole and the belated mercy shown by Australia to under-age Indonesians jailed for crewing asylum seeker vessels.
”[Corby’s parole] is not a special consideration … but I can see that the Australian government took steps to deal with the under-age Indonesian children … many of whom have already been returned.”
Corby’s parole application was signed off by the Bali corrections office two weeks ago and is now under consideration by bureaucrats in Jakarta. They have up to three weeks to double-check she has fulfilled all criteria before her file is forwarded to Mr Amir for sign-off.
Mr Amir is the minister who cut a deal in 2011 to help a 14-year-old Australian boy after he was arrested for buying marijuana in Bali. Mr Amir made sure the boy went to an immigration detention centre instead of Kerobokan prison.
But he denied he had any special affection for Australians, saying the boy’s case, too, was simply in accord with the law.
In a bizarre twist to the Corby drama, Mr Amir revealed he recently visited an Australian maximum security prison to comfort an Indonesian serving a 20-year jail sentence who felt he had been treated harshly by comparison to Corby.
On an official visit to Australia between October 14 and 16 to meet Immigration Minister Scott Morrison and Attorney-General George Brandis for talks on people smuggling, Mr Amir took time out to visit the Indonesian national, Aris Munandar. Aris was caught in 1997 on a ship with 450kilograms of heroin that he intended to smuggle to Australia.
But Mr Amir said every time Aris saw on TV that Corby had received clemency or good-behaviour remissions , he felt ”anger and anxiety”.
Mr Amir explained to the prisoner that the two justice systems were different.
”He would have received the death sentence squared [in Indonesia],” Mr Amir added.
Mr Amir also said the ”timing is right” for people to seek clemency from Dr Yudhoyono. Bali nine heroin traffickers Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, on death row in Indonesia, lodged clemency bids about 15 months ago.