Tuesday, August 21, 2007

In October of 2004, Schapelle Corby was arrested at Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport with 4.2Kg of marijuana in her luggage. While the public engaged in heated debate over whether she was guilty or not, the true culprits were in plain view all the time.

Schapelle is in prison for 20 years but no one knows where the marijuana came from. Make no mistake: 20 years in an Indonesian prison is a death sentence and yet no one can tell us what she actually did.

Was it grown naturally or hydroponically? Did it come from South Australia or was it grown on the property of a man that her father once knew? Or, did Schapelle water the plants in the family garden? These are the Australian media’s claims but all of them can’t be true.

Did Schapelle’s arrest end the transport of marijuana from Australia to Bali or merely interrupt it for a time? Is marijuana being exported from Australia to Bali at all? Why has no Australian marijuana ever been found and identified in Bali?

What stares us all in the face is that neither the Indonesian nor the Australian governments cared or wanted an investigation. This meant that the truth was known but it was far too damaging to Australian/Indonesian relations to be made public.

For Indonesian authorities to claim that the evidence that defined the crime of drug importation, the marijuana itself, did not need to be analysed or investigated was outrageous.

In a homicide, would testing to discover if the victim was actually dead be regarded as “not necessary”?

Schapelle signed a formal AFP document requesting that the drugs be forensically tested but when the AFP asked for a sample to be sent, the Bali Police refused. Didn’t the Bali Police want the source of the drugs to be investigated or the rest of the ‘gang’ to be caught?

Well, apparently not: when Mercedes arrived at Ngurah Rai Airport to discover why her sister had been delayed, it was clear that Mercedes was Schapelle’s contact in Bali. Mercedes was never so much as questioned, never mind arrested as being the receiver of these drugs.

We will see that everything the Bali Police did was to limit the case to convicting Schapelle and Schapelle only.

The people who grew, cured and packed the drugs would have dropped hair into the sticky resin. If Schapelle had been guilty, the forensic testing of the marijuana would have meant her automatic conviction. However, if Schapelle were innocent, it would have meant that real clues would have been found to convict those responsible.

The Bali Police never gave a reason for their refusal and Schapelle’s Indonesian lawyers never made this the basis of their defence or the substance of their appeals.

The very fact that it was Schapelle requesting the test should be ringing alarm bells for the Australian public - guilty people, don’t want any investigation to take place. This brings us back to the Bali Police.

Since when do guilty people plead for investigation?

If they believed Schapelle was guilty why didn’t they want to have the drugs forensically tested? Why didn’t they want to remove all doubt and present Schapelle’s hair fragments in court?

If Schapelle was guilty, the prosecution was throwing away its own evidence.

It would certainly have been a benefit to both the Australian and the Indonesian governments by ending the division and debate. Schapelle would have had no option but to change her plea to guilty and regardless of innocence or guilt there has to be concern when a defendant is refused access to the evidence that is allegedly incriminating them.

The Australian Federal Police claim that it was the defence who vetoed the drugs test and they are right – to a point. Schapelle got the form from the Australian consul but her Indonesian lawyers were opposed to doing this from the beginning. They told her that it “was not a part of their strategy” but as we learned from the Perth QCs (Queens Council) who were sent to aid Schapelle by the Australian government, her legal team had been negotiating $500,000 from the Australian Government for ‘lobbying purposes’ – a euphemism for bribes. This had been their strategy.

When the Perth QCs informed the media of this plan (the moment they left Indonesia) Schapelle was left with little option but to sack her legal team. However, her new legal team never revised their strategy and the new lead lawyer, Hotman Paris Hutapea, went behind Schapelle's back and colluded with the prosecutor saying that since the origin of the marijuana was not in doubt, there was no cause to have the drugs tested. Schapelle had no real power and only knew what her lawyers told her.

When the AFP had asked the Bali Police to forward a sample of the marijuana to them for testing Schapelle had already given them her permission. In any democratically run judicial system, the police do not have the power to deny a defendant the right guaranteed by the United Nations to examine the incriminating evidence. When the Bali Police said "No" they took it on themselves to speak on behalf of the defence. To say that this would have been disturbing to Australian authorities is an understatement.

When Hotman hurriedly responded that there was no cause to have the marijuana tested, he was defending the Bali Police and not Schapelle. His media announcement was to satisfy the requirements laid down by international law but it removed the most powerful piece of evidence for Schapelle's innocence. And, the Australian people never understood that it was Schapelle who asked for this test to be done - to them it was a sign of guilt.

Hotman should have lost his licence to practice law for that and we begin to see the true nature of Schapelle’s arrest.

An obvious way to solidify Schapelle’s conviction was to weigh her luggage with the marijuana included and to compare that weight to the figure printed on her ticket.

If the figure matched then Schapelle had the marijuana when she boarded the plane in Brisbane and she would be guilty. If the figure was 4 Kilos heavier, then the marijuana was introduced into Schapelle’s luggage after she boarded the plane and she would be innocent.

An Australian journalist at the airport asked why the luggage wasn’t being weighed and responded on camera, “It’s not necessary”. Obviously, weighing her luggage would not support the prosecution’s case but since the marijuana had only just been discovered how did the Bali Police know this? Did they secretly weigh it without telling anyone or did they already know? They cannot say that they did not consider it because Australian television audiences heard the policeman at the scene of the crime tell the TV journalist that weighing Schapelle’s luggage was “not necessary”.

Much has been made of the way the Bali Police ignored and destroyed the fingerprint evidence. Some have rightfully observed that if Schapelle’s fingerprints were not on the plastic this did not mean that she was innocent. However, there is another perspective.

If the marijuana came from Australia we must assume that everyone in Indonesia was surprised and caught off guard. The police who first arrived on the scene would quite rightly begin with the assumption that she was guilty. Therefore, the fingerprint evidence would be required by the prosecutor since there was no reason to believe that Schapelle’s fingerprints weren’t all over the plastic. How did those first junior police officers that handled the plastic without gloves know that Schapelle’s fingerprints were not there? How did they know they weren’t destroying the prosecution’s evidence when they laughed at Schapelle while she begged them to preserve fingerprint evidence? How did they know they wouldn’t be reprimanded by their superiors? As each new policeman arrived at the scene they all handled the plastic and not one of them questioned this action as if it had been agreed prior to the discovery that the fingerprint evidence would not be required by the prosecution.

It is one thing for the prosecutor to decide that fingerprint evidence would not be required but the reality was that this decision was made by two remarkably confident junior police patrolmen, not by the more senior police who arrived later.

Schapelle has been protesting her innocence since the moment the drugs were discovered. The only evidence against her is that the marijuana was found in her luggage and Customs Officer who discovered it testified that Schapelle had said, “The marijuana is mine”.

This second piece of evidence was important because in order to gain a conviction the prosecution had to prove the existence of the drugs and that Schapelle had prior knowledge of them.

To prove that Schapelle had prior knowledge of the drugs, finding her hair fragments in the marijuana was ignored, finding her fingerprints on the plastic was ignored, and proving that the marijuana was in her boogie board bag when she weighed in her luggage at Brisbane airport was ignored. Instead, the prosecutor chose the hearsay evidence of the customs officer, Winata, who when interviewed by the Australian media required a translator to ask the questions in Indonesian and to translate his answers into English.

If we ignore the discrepancy that during the first hearing, only Winata testified that Schapelle said, “the marijuana is mine” but in the second hearing, several Bali Policemen also claimed they heard it as well, we still must ask why Schapelle, who has never admitted to importing the drugs, would say such a thing whether she was innocent or not.

The answer becomes obvious when we understand the circumstances of Schapelle’s statement. Before the drugs were even removed from the boogie board bag, Schapelle freely admits saying, “No, it’s mine.” The police were pointing to the luggage while restraining and taking away her brother, James, and asking him, “Is this yours?”

How can anyone claim that Schapelle said, “The marijuana is mine” when the response of the police was to take James into a back room to be questioned for half an hour?

They left Schapelle unguarded with her travelling companions with the ability to stay or go as she pleased. Obviously, the Bali Police lied. Had she said, “The marijuana is mine” they would not have ignored her but would have taken her away for interrogation.

Since they did ignore her at that point in time then they could not have believed that she had confessed to the crime.

Schapelle’s conviction depended on this single testimony, why didn’t Schapelle’s lawyers challenge it?

The prosecution could have had a fast conclusive trial and forced Schapelle to change her plea to guilty by collecting the evidence that was there. Schapelle’s hair stuck in the resin, her fingerprints on the plastic and the incontrovertible evidence of her luggage not changing its weight from the time she packed her bags to the moment of her arrest would have demanded her confession and the people of Indonesia and Australia would never have been bothered by the plight of Schapelle Corby.

You cannot believe Schapelle to be guilty because justice was not served. It is the job of the police to investigate and to collect all available evidence and then it is up to the prosecutor to decide which evidence he will use. It is not up to the police to determine which evidence will go before the court and which evidence will not.

This action meant that it was the Bali Police and not the judges who were determining the outcome of the trial.

When the Bali Police refused to collect this evidence and refused to allow the defence to collect this evidence they left Schapelle without the ability to mount a defence. Her only option left was to beg and plead for the true culprit to come forward – that’s not justice.

Those who believe Schapelle is guilty don’t know the truth. The Bali Police determined that you were not to know. If Schapelle was guilty, they could have proven it conclusively but chose not to. The truly alarming aspect is that the Bali Police demonstrated a prior knowledge of the marijuana and that would only have been possible if they had planted the drugs themselves. If the Bali Police were to be put on trial for their actions in this case it is hard to see how they could escape a conviction.

We now know what the Bali Police did but do we also know why?

Bali was broke. ‘War on Terror’ funding was pouring into Jakarta but none of it was going to bomb-torn Bali. If Bali executed a foreigner for trafficking drugs across national borders then the Bali Police would be deserving of ‘War on drugs’ funding to better equip them fight this scourge. The Chief of Bali Police, Made Pastika, announced a “tough on drugs campaign” and then he waited, and waited…

One thing that is certain is that the Corby story will continue until there is an enquiry because anyone who claims that Schapelle received a fair trial is ignoring the facts of what occurred and the actions of the Bali Police demand closer scrutiny as well.

Please feel free to comment.