May 27, 2017 / 1:07 PM / 3 years ago

Australia's 'Ganja Queen' set to leave Bali

DENPASAR, Indonesia (Reuters) - Australian drug convict Schapelle Corby is set to be deported from the Indonesian island of Bali on Saturday night after completing a twelve-and-a-half-year sentence for smuggling marijuana, a case that strained ties between the neighbouring countries.

Australian drug convict Schapelle Corby (R) is escorted by police after reporting to a parole office before her expected deportation to Australia, in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia May 27, 2017 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Nyoman Budhiana/via REUTERS

Corby has always maintained her innocence, saying she was unaware she was carrying more than 4 kg (8.8 lb) of marijuana in a boogie board bag when she arrived on the resort island in late 2004.

The case received huge media attention, with many Australians feeling the former beauty therapist had been harshly treated under Indonesia’s strict drug laws, even though Corby could have faced the death penalty for trafficking.

Adding to the drama and public interest, the court hearings were broadcast live and included emotional outbursts from Corby and her family when she received a 20-year sentence.

“Australians became so besotted with the case,” said Janine Hosking, who made the documentary “Ganja Queen” about Corby’s case. “She doesn’t look like how we would imagine a drug trafficker to look; she looks like the girl next door.”

“People will speculate forever on this case,” Hosking told Reuters previously, adding that the media attention had worked against her even if it made her a star.

Corby’s sentence was later cut after a request for clemency to then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and she was released on parole in 2014.

Under her parole conditions, Corby had to keep in close contact with correctional officers while living at the Bali home of her sister Mercedes, trying to stay out of the public eye as the media tracked her every move.

According to the head of the parole office, Surung Pasaribu, Corby had been fearful of the constant media coverage, and he said the Australian government had asked his office to ensure her safety ahead of her departure to Brisbane on Saturday night.

“All that’s left is to sign some letters,” Pasaribu said, after which she will be handed over to immigration officials at Bali’s Ngurah Rai airport. “Today, Corby is free.”

In an Instagram post (@schapelle.corby) on Saturday, Corby told her more than 61 thousand followers, “Good bye to this parole paper work. Approching (sic) parole office for the last time.”

Writing by Fergus Jensen; Editing by Ed Davies and Toby Chopra

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