february 12, 2014
As Schapelle Corby was escorted from Kerobokan prison this week and the media circus moved on, 11 almost forgotten Australians were be left behind doing hard time in Balinese jails.
Though 2 of them are facing the death penalty and six more are serving life, unlike Corby, there is almost no public interest in their plight.
Bali 9 heroin traffickers Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan face being taken from their cells without warning one midnight and gunned down by firing squad.
6 more Bali 9 members – Scott Rush, Martin Stephens, Matthew Norman, Si Yi Chen, Michael Czugaj and Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen – are sentenced to life in jail with little or no hope of release. Renae Lawrence, the only female Bali 9 member, is serving a 20-year sentence but, with good behaviour, could be out as soon as 2016.
2 other Australian-born prisoners who are virtually unknown at home – Michael Sacatides and Ballarat-born Edward Myatt – are serving 18 years and 8 years respectively in Kerobokan for drug smuggling.
The public fascination with Corby has sometimes bemused and sometimes frustrated the other Australian prisoners, particularly as lawyers for Chan and Sukumaran have struggled to raise public interest in their clients’ clemency bids.
Through their lawyer, they declined to comment for this story.
But Corby’s departure, according to one prison source, will affect all those who are left behind.
“It’s nice to see one person getting out, but we’re still in the same position as we were when we got here,” the prisoner said.
“It’s like an era is passing; but for us it feels like nothing has changed.”
For the death penalty pair, Chan and Sukumaran, recent political developments in Jakarta have given some hope. The president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced in January he was considering dozens of requests for clemency – including from death penalty prisoners – before his presidential term in office ends this year. Both Australian death-row inmates applied for clemency in mid-2012.
4 of the 6 Bali 9 lifers have also applied to have their sentences reduced to 20 years. If it’s granted they will for the 1st time have a release date, and can begin earning remissions for good behaviour.
Stephens, Norman, Chen and Nguyen have applied unsuccessfully a number of times before, but this time the prison governor took their applications personally to Jakarta, giving rise to some optimism that they would be accepted.
“We need something to give us hope,” said life-sentence prisoner Martin Stephens recently.
“If you have a date, even if it’s 10 years away, you have something to look forward to,” said another prisoner.
“Without that, it’s like you’re stuck in the air, with nothing – limbo.”
(source: Sydney Morning Herald)