Schapelle Corby’s long-running fight for freedom – and much needed medical treatment – is closer than ever, thanks to a new push to slash her jail sentence.
A legal plea for clemency, which has the backing of Prime Minister Julia Gillard, has been quietly underway since March, but friends fear Schapelle is now so mentally ill in Bali’s Kerobokan prison, she probably doesn’t even realise she may soon be free at last.
A Supreme Court judge has reportedly recommended to Indonesia’s president that Schapelle’s sentence be ‘cut significantly’ following a new submission from her lawyer Iskander Nawing.
Under Indonesia’s remissions system, reduced sentences are announced on Independence Day on August 17. Last year, Schapelle’s sentence was cut by four months, and it may again this year – but the clemency claim is a separate consideration.
Now amid a much-improved relationship with Indonesia and the support of the Australian government, hopes are high her sentence could be cut by as much as 15 years. Having already served more than five years, it might even mean she could leave Bali within days of a decision.
Iskander tells New Idea exclusively: ‘I’m pleased the clemency application has now reached the president. I believe my client is not guilty and now she is mentally psychotic – clemency should be granted on humanitarian grounds.’
Clemency appeals usually only apply to prisoners who admit their guilt. As Schapelle has always maintained her innocence, Iskander’s plea is based on the fact that his client is mentally ill. When he last met her three months ago, ‘she could not understand what I said’, Iskander reveals.
The clemency plea is part of the strongest push to date to have the 33-year-old released from jail. A new team of experts and lawyers have been working tirelessly with Schapelle’s sister Mercedes and mum Rosleigh Rose in recent months to have her freed as soon as possible. And it can’t come soon enough.
Support group Women for Schapelle warn that the young Aussie’s mental health has reached an all-time low and she now has trouble recognising her own family.
A description of a recent jail visit, posted on the organisation’s Facebook site, says: ‘Schapelle asked her mum if she was really her mother. She told her people can be made up to look like her mum with make-up. She kept asking: “Are you really my mum?”
‘Schapelle pulled all the eyes off her soft toys and handed them to her mum, telling her: “Take the cameras away.” Then a visitor gave her a soft toy, a tiger. She hid it because she fears its eyes watch her.
‘Last time her uncle went, she sat there with tears streaming down her face because she couldn’t make him understand what she meant – it was something to do with his watch.’
Women for Schapelle’s Louise Hopkin warns that cutting Schapelle’s sentence isn’t enough. ‘She simply won’t last. She needs a pardon,’ Louise says.
A source close to the family agrees: ‘She really is in a terrible state and will not be able to hang on for too much longer. But Schapelle’s family are not making any comment while the legal process is ongoing.’
Supporters are praying that Schapelle – who was convicted of smuggling 4.2kg of marijuana into Bali in 2004 – could have her 20-year sentence slashed so she could leave jail immediately for the medical treatment she so desperately needs.
Her current sentence means that chances of motherhood are all but zero. Her hopes for freedom and family now rest with Indonesia’s president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – and she has the backing of the Australian government.
Last week, Prime Minister Gillard said: ‘I support, the Australian government supports her plea for clemency,’ she says. ‘We obviously do want that plea for clemency to be heard and to get sympathetic consideration.’
Schapelle’s lawyer Iskander is grateful for the prime minister’s comments: ‘We do not know how long a decision will take to be made by the president but I hope it is dealt with quickly. It is nice to know the Australian government supports her application for clemency.’
Some commentators are still nervous about a successful appeal. An Australian prison activist says: ‘I think it’s too early for Schapelle’s supporters to start popping champagne bottles. I believe the Indonesian president will deliberate carefully as he is mindful about not going soft on crime.’
However, supporters continue to hope for success. As one Corby family friend says: ‘It’s impossible to overemphasise how important this is, how much she has suffered and how close she is to the edge.’
She will die
Schapelle Corby has no hope of recovering from her mental illness as long as she remains in jail. Almost a year ago New Idea travelled to Bali, where leading Australian psychiatrist Associate Professor Jonathan Phillips (left) examined her. He said she was suffering a severe psychotic illness accompanied by delusions, hallucinations and a thought disorder, and warned prison was ‘toxic’ to her mental illness.
‘She has no hope. Her treatment is inadequate and cannot work in the current environment,’ he said. ‘She is condemned to a private hell which is hard to contemplate and will probably end in death.’
Dr Phillips warns Schapelle will not survive her 20-year sentence unless she leaves prison and is given proper medical treatment in a hospital.