Minister steps in over Corby and death penalty

The Sydney Morning Herald: April 8, 2005 - 6:58AM


Federal Justice Minister Chris Ellison has asked the Indonesian government not to seek the death penalty if a Bali court delivers a guilty verdict against accused drug smuggler Schapelle Corby.

The 27-year-old former beauty student from the Gold Coast faces possible death by firing squad after being caught with 4.1kg of high-grade cannabis in her unlocked bodyboard bag at Bali airport last October.

The trial was yesterday adjourned until April 14 after Corby said she was too sick to continue this week.

Senator Ellison said he had spoken with Indonesian Attorney-General Abdurrahman Saleh overnight in Jakarta.

"I indicated to the Indonesian attorney-general that Australia was opposed to the death penalty and that in the event of Schapelle Corby being found guilty that we would plead with the Indonesian government that the death penalty not be sought," Senator Ellison told ABC radio.

"At this stage of the court proceedings I understand there is an avenue for the attorney-general in Indonesia to make representations to the prosecution in the preparation of their submission on sentencing."

Senator Ellison said he believed Mr Abdurrahman had listened carefully to his argument.

"I believe that the Indonesian government are treating this seriously," he said.

"I believe they understand the concern that many Australians hold in relation to this matter.

"But we must remember that this is a court proceeding which is pending in an Indonesian court and I stressed to the attorney-general that we fully respected the judicial process.

"And, as I said to Schapelle Corby's lawyers I would not be making any request of the attorney-general which was an improper request or an inappropriate one having regard to the laws of Indonesia."

Senator Ellison said he had secured support from the Indonesian Justice Minister to start talks about putting in place an agreement to allow the transfer of prisoners.

This would allow Corby, if she was found guilty and given a prison sentence, to serve her sentence in Australia.

"We will be having our officials visit Indonesia to work on this and progress it," he said.

"I'm very keen that it be put in place as soon as possible."