MPs urge Indonesia to refuse Australian trafficker parole

JAKARTA - Indonesian lawmakers on Thursday urged the government to refuse Australian drug trafficker Schapelle Corby parole a day before a decision is due, citing current poor ties between Jakarta and Canberra.

"We expressed deep regret about and objection to" the prospect of the inmate being released early, said lawmaker Taslim Chaniago, reading from a letter signed by eight MPs that was handed to Justice Minister Amir Syamsuddin.

However, Mr Syamsuddin insisted he would follow the letter of the law when deciding on Corby's case. He is due to announce his decision on Friday and speculation has been mounting that he will grant her early release.

Corby was sentenced to 20 years in jail in 2005 after being caught trying to smuggle 4.1 kilograms of marijuana into the resort island of Bali, although she has always maintained her innocence.

While her case has attracted huge attention and public sympathy in Australia, some in Indonesia have been angered by the prospect of her receiving parole.

The group of lawmakers said on Thursday that her early release would come at a bad time with Indonesia-Australia ties at a low point and would also run counter to Jakarta's tough anti-drugs policies.

"We currently have bad relations with Australia as our president was wiretapped," Mr Chaniago, from the National Mandate Party, told reporters before the meeting with lawmakers and Syamsuddin at parliament in Jakarta.

He was referring to a row between Jakarta and Canberra over allegations that Australian spies tried to listen to phone calls of the president and his inner circle.

In the letter, read out by Mr Chaniago, the lawmakers said they regretted "the inconsistency of the government in its efforts to eradicate narcotics".

But Mr Syamsuddin said that decisions on parole were "regulated clearly by law... this is not about the generosity of a minister or president".

Corby lodged her application for early release from jail on Bali months ago but the process has moved along slowly due to bureaucratic wrangling.

However it sped up in recent weeks. A justice ministry parole board held a hearing on her case behind closed doors in Jakarta last week, and its assessment is expected to be the key factor in her possible early release.

However, officials have not revealed whether the board recommended she be granted parole.

Corby's original 20-year sentence was reduced significantly after she received several remissions for good behaviour and a cut of five years from the president.

If granted parole, Corby would still be bound to live on Bali and obliged to report regularly to authorities. She would not be able to return to Australia until 2017.