DAVID PENBERTHY Tale of two drug mules

Sunday Tasmanian - - News -

LIFE can main­tain a weird kind of equi­lib­rium. So it is that as Schapelle Corby is set to re­turn home af­ter 13 years in a Bali jail and on home de­ten­tion, an­other fool­ish Aussie, Cassie Sains­bury, may well spend a com­pa­ra­ble pe­riod in the clink in Colombia for do­ing some­thing re­ally stupid, too.

The yin-yang of in­car­cer­ated Aussie rat­bags will re­main in per­fect bal­ance.

Aus­tralia has been quick to turn on Sains­bury, es­pe­cially in light of the many damn­ing claims aired on TV last Sun­day that blew gap­ing holes in her al­ready flimsy as­sort­ment of al­i­bis for her al­leged co­caines­mug­gling at­tempt.

It was a dif­fer­ent story with Corby. The cyn­i­cism that would even­tu­ally sur­round her was more a slow build.

In­deed, in the early days of the drama, af­ter her arrest in 2004, many Aus­tralians be­lieved she was the in­no­cent vic­tim of a stitch-up and treated poorly by the heavy-handed In­done­sian au­thor­i­ties.

The tenor of the times was in­formed by the re­cent his­tory of the 2002 Bali bomb­ings, in which 88 Aus­tralians were among the dead.

As Corby was star­ing at a 20-year sen­tence for pos­ses­sion of 4.2kg of cannabis, the man ac­cused of mas­ter­mind­ing the Sari Club and Mar­riot Ho­tel bomb­ings, rad­i­cal cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, re­ceived a laugh­able term of 2½ years be­hind bars for mur­der­ing 202 civil­ians.

The pa­per I was work­ing at in May 2005, Syd­ney’s Daily Tele­graph, stumped for the head­line “A na­tion’s fury” on the day Corby was put away, draw­ing a pointed con­trast to the Bashir sen­tence.

The head­line re­flected the pub­lic’s sense of anger at the ap­par­ent dou­ble stan­dards in the In­done­sian jus­tice sys­tem.

It also re­flected the much more re­laxed at­ti­tude many Aus­tralians have to­wards a drug such as cannabis, re­gard­ing it as a lower-level nar­cotic.

I can re­mem­ber col­leagues jok­ing they had seen more dope at univer­sity share houses than Corby had stuffed into her boo­gie board bag, or, as she still main­tains, was stuffed into the bag by a stranger with­out her knowl­edge.

Un­like Sains­bury, Corby’s de­nials were ini­tially re­garded as plau­si­ble. Not be­cause of any ev­i­dence sup­port­ing her claim to in­no­cence, but be­cause the na­tion felt so sorry for her it was pre­pared to ig­nore the pos­si­bil­ity of her guilt.

There were all those emo­tion­ally charged court ap­pear­ances, not to forget the su­per­fi­cial fact there was some­thing so re­lat­able about this knock­about, sur­fie chick.

It wasn’t long af­ter she was jailed that the ques­tion marks started pil­ing up.

There were the claims she had been framed by bag­gage han­dlers at Syd­ney Air­port, with the Aus­tralian Fed­eral Po­lice un­able to pro­vide any in­tel­li­gence to sup­port her as­ser­tion.

There was a string of ev­er­chang­ing and of­ten colour­ful lawyers, some later struck off or dis­cred­ited, ral­ly­ing be­hind her vary­ing con­spir­acy claims.

There were rev­e­la­tions about her fam­ily, mainly her late fa­ther’s drug con­vic­tion.

There was the at­tempted book deal, prompt­ing many Aus­tralians to muse whether Corby was ben­e­fit­ing com­mer­cially from a crime.

There was the ap­par­ent con­fes­sion she made to Bali Nine drug mule and for­mer friend Re­nae Lawrence that she had suc­cess­fully man­aged to pull off two in­ter­na­tional drug ship­ments in the past be­fore she got caught in 2004.

John Howard was Aus­tralian prime min­is­ter when Corby was ar­rested and tried. While I doubt there was a mem­ber of his gov­ern­ment who ever truly be­lieved Corby was in­no­cent, Howard did an ex­traor­di­nar­ily gen­er­ous job sup­port­ing her.

He took a per­sonal in­ter­est in her case af­ter re­ceiv­ing a hand­writ­ten plea from Corby af­ter her 20-year con­vic­tion.

He wrote a lengthy re­ply, stat­ing she would con­tinue to en­joy full con­sular sup­port from Depart­ment of For­eign Af­fairs and Trade staff in Jakarta and Den­pasar, in­clud­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion with her le­gal team, and that Can­berra would also seek In­done­sia’s sup­port in mak­ing key wit­nesses avail­able to help her case.

For all this, there was one com­ment Howard made to the me­dia, sep­a­rate from his let­ter, that summed up what would ul­ti­mately be the pub­lic sen­ti­ment about her case.

The same sen­ti­ment now ap­plies to Sains­bury, as it did to those poor fools who came to be known as the Bali Nine.

“I feel for her,” Howard said of Corby. “I un­der­stand why there’s a lot of pub­lic sym­pa­thy for her. But I would ask the rhetor­i­cal ques­tion: If a for­eigner were to come to Aus­tralia and a for­eign gov­ern­ment were to start telling us how we should han­dle it, we would re­act very an­grily.”

In­deed, we would. Howard’s in­stincts were right. While he nod­ded his head to­wards the pub­lic dis­quiet over Corby’s predica­ment, he rightly iden­ti­fied an­other pub­lic sen­ti­ment — that it was a bit rich for Aus­tralia to lec­ture an­other coun­try about its man­age­ment of a prob­lem that may well have been cre­ated by one per­son, and one per­son alone. Schapelle Corby.

Be it Corby, the Bali Nine or Sains­bury, all these cases share three fea­tures: naive ig­no­rance of the laws of other lands, a base­less sense of in­dig­na­tion at the con­se­quences of their own choices, and an im­per­ti­nent de­mand that it is the job of some­body else, namely Can­berra, to get them out of trou­ble.

In the Sains­bury case, I’m still mar­vel­ling that her fam­ily set up a gofundme.com web­page say­ing there is no chance she will get a fair trial “in such a cor­rupt coun­try”.

How’s that for a mo­ronic charm of­fen­sive against your cap­tors, es­pe­cially as they’re do­ing noth­ing more than up­hold­ing their laws.

If you can’t obey these laws, maybe a pass­port isn’t for you.

Cassie Sains­bury

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