An angry looking Indonesian justice minister indicated late on Monday night that he may revoke Schapelle Corby’s parole after watching the Seven Network’s documentary about her release.
Minister Amir Syamsuddin did not even wait for a question from a small group of journalists at his office before saying: “I am waiting for a complete report from the Bali Corrections Board, and in the meantime I'd like to announce that there's a possibility I will revoke Corby's parole.”
The Indonesian government explicitly warned the Corby family that Schapelle should not do a post-release interview, but the story on Channel Seven’s Sunday Night program, which was simply called Schapelle, went ahead anyway using candid footage of Corby and an interview with her sister, Mercedes.
Politicians from president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s parliamentary coalition immediately started to pressure the government to act against her, saying the Corby family had tried to “sneak around the law”.
There is no indication of when Mr Amir might make his decision but it is likely to be within days.
Until now, the minister has been one of Corby’s strongest supporters, saying her case was a legal issue, not a political one, and that she deserved parole because of good behaviour. But he is clearly infuriated by the turn of events and the criticism he is now receiving from the Indonesian parliament in an election year over alleged “special treatment” of the Australian drug smuggler.
Particularly controversial has been Mercedes’ line in the Seven interview that the marijuana in Schapelle’s boogie-board bag in 2004 “could have been from Indonesia” — suggesting she had been set up.
Nasir Jamil a member of Komisi III, parliament’s justice and human rights committee, said the program had created the impression that “Indonesian law is for sale, that you can buy it”.
Any move to return Schapelle to Kerobokan after less than a month outside would be devastating to a woman who is suffering from mental trauma, according to all who have met her since her release.
Early on Monday, Corby and her family spent nearly two hours explaining their Australian TV appearance to officials at the Bali Justice Office in the hope of resisting the push to revoke her parole.
Sunar Agus, the head of the corrections division at the justice office, who conducted the Monday meeting and then reported his findings to Jakarta, also confirmed to Fairfax Media that the family had left the luxury villa that interviewer Mike Willesee described as a “gilded cage” and moved to another, undisclosed location.
Mr Sunar said Mercedes and her husband Wayan Widyartha had explained what was said in the Seven Network interview, and what they hoped to achieve by it, while Schapelle herself had remained “uncommunicative”.
Mr Sunar said Mercedes and Wayan had informed him that the program covered the death of Corby’s father Mick and the care Mercedes had given her in prison, as well as their move out of the Sentosa villas.
But the program covered significantly more ground than that, including more protestations of Corby’s innocence, and the suggestion that she might have been set up.
Mr Sunar said it was a matter for judgment by others if the family had lied to officials about the content of the program.
He said the family had argued again that Corby should be allowed to do the interview so that other, non-favoured journalists, would stop “hounding her for an interview”.
“But judging from my meeting with her, she would not make a very good interview subject,” Mr Sunar said. “She was not very communicative and I didn’t want to add pressure to her [by insisting she talk].”
On a popular morning program on national network Metro TV, Mr Amir’s deputy, Denny Indrayana, expressed disquiet about the Australian broadcast.
Mr Denny said that, while the issue needed more study, Corby may have been “sneaking around the law” in a program which featured footage of her celebrating her release, and a soft interview with Mercedes.
The Corby family and Seven Network producers believed they would not be in breach of the Indonesian law if the program did not include an interview with Corby herself. But Komisi III member Mr Nasir, said Mercedes doing the interview was “basically the same thing”.
“The community can see how the family has tried to sneak around the law. We want the government to be stern and confirm what is actually the criteria of causing restlessness. This is a country based on the rule of law, so we need to be strict and stern,” Mr Nasir said. Mr Denny indicated he was open to that "very good" argument.
“They sought permission to do the interview and we said no. Now, if they are doing it through the sister, we’ll have to see if that actually breaches her parole conditions,” Mr Denny said.
He said his department would carefully review the program to see if it caused “restlessness” in the community. The restlessness clause in the parole laws gave the government wide discretion and the “opportunity to review” a parolee’s behaviour outside prison, he said. However, he also cited Corby’s right to free speech.
“I can’t give a full answer until I’ve seen the whole thing, but we will see if it’s [evading the ruling against an interview] or it is her exercising her freedom of speech … we have to evaluate it to see if there is a precedent … and so we have a strong foundation for a decision.”
Mr Denny said the three things that were of potential concern were the subject of the interview, whether Corby was paid for it, and whether the family had disregarded the clear instructions of the Indonesian government not to do an interview.
On the money issue, both the Corby family and the Seven Network have repeatedly denied that there has been, or would be, any payment for the program.
Sunday Night drew 1.09 million viewers in the five major capitals on Sunday.
This is well down on the 1.91 million people who watched the show's INXS special last week. On Sunday night, the show was beaten by arch-rival 60 Minutes on Nine, which had 1.21 million viewers, its best result of the year.
With Michael Lallo