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An Excessive Sentence?

The public prosecutor in Bali filed an appeal on the 20-year prison sentence for Corby, considering it too light. Why are the airport police reluctant to do a fingerprinting test?

MERCEDES Corby cried and shouted, "Schapelle is innocent. This verdict is unjust," she shrieked at the judge in Bali, sentencing Schapelle Leigh Corby to 20 years in prison. The 30-year-old woman sobbed loudly, disappointed over the court's decision, and a fine of Rp100 million against her younger sister, Schapelle.

Corby, 27, a university student from Brisbane, Australia, was tried for possession of 4.2 kilograms of marijuana upon arriving at the Bali's Ngurah Rai Airport on October 8, 2004. Airport authorities discovered the drug in two plastic containers in her bag, along with a pair of scuba flippers and a surfboard.

Corby was charged under Law No. 2/1977 on Narcotics. She was found guilty of transporting Class I narcotics into Indonesian territory. This type of violation is punishable by life or 20 years imprisonment plus a maximum fine of Rp1 billion. The Denpasar Public Prosecutor sought a life imprisonment and a fine of Rp100 million for Corby.

Corby denied that the marijuana belonged to her. In her defense on April 28, she said that she was the victim of an Australian narcotics syndicate which was taking advantage of her country's weak airport security system. "My only mistake was not putting a lock on my luggage," she said.

Corby's defense team strongly objected to the charges made by the public prosecutor. In a 79-page defense entitled "Is There Any Justice for the Accused in the Beloved Country?" they stated that the demand for life imprisonment for Corby was inappropriate and set a poor example. "It is better to free 1,000 who are guilty than to punish one innocent person," said Lili Sri Rahayu Lubis, a member of Corby's defense team.

This team also questioned the reluctance of airport authorities, the customs people and the police as well as the public prosecutors office, to conduct a fingerprinting test on the marijuana evidence. The police feel that this kind of testing was unproductive. "Narcotics criminals use many means to remain untraceable, and one of them is by not touching the goods before they reach the recipient," said Sr. Police Commissioner Reniban A.S., spokesperson for the Bali Regional Police Department. For this reason, said Reniban, no fingerprints belonging to the perpetrators were going to be found on packs of narcotics.

People have reacted differently to Corby's prison sentence. Some Australians feel that the excessive prison sentence given by the Indonesian court was unjust. Conversely, the public prosecutor feels that Corby's sentence was too lenient. "It should have been life in prison," said Indonesian Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh. Public prosecutor I.B. Wismantanu has appealed the decision of "just" a 20-year sentence.

M. Taufiq, Coordinator of the Surakarta Anti-Narcotics Movement, commented that since the year 2000, of the 32 drug dealers from overseas who were tried in Indonesian courts, only one has been sentenced to life in prison. "The others were given death sentences," he said. One of them is Rodrigues Gularte, a Brazilian arrested at Soekarno-Hatta Airport on July 31, 2004 for possession of 300 grams of cocaine. On February 7, the Tangerang District Court sentenced Gularte to death. "And his case was not as serious as Corby's," said Taufik.

Australia herself has also meted out serious punishments for drug runners and dealers. In 1992, for instance, a Japanese citizen, Chika Honda, was arrested at Melbourne Airport for having 13 kilograms of heroin in her suitcase. Although Honda swore that it did not belong to her, the Australian court showed no mercy. This 30-year-old woman was sentenced to remain in an Australian prison for 10 and a half years.

Abdul Manan, Rofiqi Hasan (Denpasar), Anas Syahirul (Solo)

TEMPO, JUNE 13, 2005-040/P. 43 Heading Cover Story

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