Australian ‘Bali Nine’ drug mule released from prison after 13 years

Bali Nine drug smuggler Renae Lawrence runs through the terminal as she arrives at Newcastle airport in Newcastle, Australia, November 22, 2018. AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts/via REUTERS

BANGLI, Indonesia (Reuters) – Australian heroin courier Renae Lawrence was released from an Indonesian prison on Wednesday, the first of the so-called Bali Nine drug smuggling ring to gain freedom after the execution of the two ring leaders strained ties between the countries.

Lawrence, 41, left Bali’s Bangli prison through a doorway where prison officers had laid Hindu offerings. A large media scrum surrounded Lawrence as she was ushered into a black SUV.

A police convoy escorted the vehicle as it headed to Denpasar airport, where Lawrence was to be held in a temporary detention centre while waiting for an overnight flight to Sydney.

She will not be allowed to return to Indonesia, said Maryoto Sumadi, the chief of Bali’s Justice Office.

Lawrence was arrested at Denpasar airport in 2005 with 2.7 kilos of heroin strapped to her body. She was initially sentenced to life in prison.

With the support of prosecutors, the sentence was reduced to 20 years on appeal, largely because Lawrence co-operated with investigators and disclosed the roles of other Bali Nine members. Remissions cut her prison time by a further seven years.

Indonesia has harsh laws against drugs and the other eight members of the Bali Nine received the death penalty or life sentences.

The two ringleaders, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, were executed by firing squad in 2015, causing a diplomatic rupture between Australia and Indonesia. Australia recalled its ambassador in protest.

Chan and Sukumaran, who apologised for their crimes, helped scores of Indonesian prisoners through language and training programmes they set up inside Bali’s Kerobokan prison.

Another member of the Bali Nine, Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, died of kidney cancer in May.

The other five are all serving life jail terms. They have failed in repeated attempts to get their sentences reduced.

In Australia, Lawrence faces two outstanding warrants, reportedly relating to a high speed chase with police in a stolen car before her fateful trip to the Indonesian holiday island.

She has been asked to report to police in Gosford, north of Sydney, when she returns, her father Bob Lawrence told Australian broadcaster Nine News.

A spokeswoman for police in the Australian state of New South Wales told Reuters the two warrants related to traffic offences, but declined to elaborate.

Police would be in touch with Lawrence’s legal team about the warrants in a “timely manner”, she said.

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