KEROBOKAN, Indonesia: Australian drug trafficker Schapelle Corby, hiding her face from a media scrum, was hustled out of prison on Monday to start the next chapter of her troubled life after more than nine years behind bars in Bali.
The 36-year-old covered her features with a scarf and hat as she was released on parole and ushered into a minibus waiting outside Kerobokan jail on the Indonesian resort island, as camera crews and photographers fought to get a shot of her.
Corby’s case has been the subject of huge public interest back home ever since her 2004 arrest in Bali, a favorite holiday spot for Australians, with marijuana stashed in her surfing gear.
Her steadfast proclamations of innocence and well-documented fight with mental illness in prison generated much sympathy in Australia. She was often depicted there as the victim of a conspiracy or of unfair treatment by Indonesia’s supposedly corrupt judicial system.
After she was freed, Corby visited government officials who will oversee her parole in Indonesia—where she must remain until 2017—before being whisked away by a black SUV to a luxury resort and spa in the popular Seminyak district.
As expected the former beauty school student did not comment, but one official said she seemed upset.
“We asked her how she was. She cried and said she was still feeling traumatized due to all the journalists,” said Agung Bagus Kusimantara from the Bali prosecutors’ office.
In Australia, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Corby’s release would be “a happy day for her family and supporters.”
“One aspect of a long saga, one chapter in a long saga is closed,” he told reporters.
While her parole has been welcomed in Australia, it drew protests from Indonesian law–makers and an anti-drugs group who said it contradicted the country’s tough anti-narcotics laws.
Jakarta on Monday again defended granting Corby parole, with presidential spokesman Teuku Faizasyah reiterating the government had been following the letter of the law.
“The leniency we have granted is actually based on a legal assessment,” he said.
And he insisted the gov–ernment was still “against narcotics . . . there’s no change in the government’s stance.”
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.