Australian Schapelle Corby was deported from Bali on Saturday, 12 years after being convicted of drug trafficking on the tourist island, battling through a media storm in a dramatic end to a saga that has captivated her homeland.
Her final day on the Indonesian island was a blaze of media attention, as she was hustled out of a villa with her face hidden under a scarf, and then chased by a huge pack of journalists across Bali before boarding a flight home.
In a final twist, she managed to outsmart the media by heading back to Brisbane on a different flight than had been widely expected, apparently to avoid travelling with a large contingent of reporters.
The day of drama was a fitting finale to a story that has fascinated the Australian public like few others in recent times.
The beauty-school dropout was arrested in 2004 at the age of 27 after customs officers at Bali’s airport found 4 kilograms of marijuana stashed inside her surfing bag, sparking a media frenzy in Australia on par with America’s OJ Simpson trial.
The drama was tailor-made for TV: a photogenic Australian beach girl who had apparently fallen victim to corrupt officials in an Asian country that had come to be viewed with fear and suspicion after dozens of Australians were killed in the 2002 Bali bombings.
A court sentenced her to 20 years in prison, though that was later reduced.
Corby, now 39, maintained her innocence, insisting the drugs had been planted, and received much support back home.
|Corby (R) approaches her family after she was found guilty of smuggling marijuana [File: Darren Whiteside/Reuters]|
Proving her innocence became a national cause, sparking “Free Schapelle” T-shirts and “Boycott Bali” banners.
Her face took the place of celebrities on magazine covers, but she was not beloved by all. Some dubbed her a “bogan” – Australian slang that means white trash.
Her sentence was cut due to regular remissions and after an appeal to the president, and she served nine years behind bars. She was released early in 2014 but was required to remain on Bali for three years under the conditions of her parole.
Australian media descended on Bali ahead of her homecoming, camping out outside her villa for several days as Corby did her best to stay hidden.
The “Ganja Queen”
Hundreds of police were deployed to provide security on Saturday. Corby was led out of the villa in the afternoon, hidden under the scarf and wearing a pair of sunglasses, before being whisked away in a convoy that included armoured vehicles.
The view of the Australian has been starkly different in Indonesia than in her homeland. She was dubbed “The Ganja Queen” by the local press and received little sympathy from the public, who largely support the country’s tough anti-drugs laws.
101 East – Inside Indonesia’s Drug War
Bali officials have been forced to defend the huge security deployment for her departure, with corrections chief Surung Pasaribu saying the Australian consulate on the island had requested help to ensure it went smoothly.
“We will pray for her that she will repent, God wants humans to return to the right path,” he said.
She headed first to government offices to fill out documents. “Good bye to this parole paperwork,” she posted on her Instagram account, which already had over 67,000 followers just a few hours after being set up.
Corby then headed to the airport, pursued all the way by a massive Australian press pack, who broadcast every moment live to the millions who have followed her case for years.
Despite the controversy surrounding her case, Indonesia has stepped up its campaign against drug use since she was jailed.
Authorities have embarked on a campaign of executions targeting drug smugglers, and in April 2015 put to death two Australians along with six other foreigners.
Source: News agencies