Australian Schapelle Corby will on Saturday finally return home from Bali 12 years after she was convicted of drug trafficking, in a long-awaited return that has triggered a media frenzy.
The beauty school dropout was arrested in 2004 at the Indonesian resort island’s airport with marijuana stashed in her surfing gear, and sentenced to 20 years in jail.
She was released early in 2014 but was required to remain on Bali another three years under the conditions of her parole. The 39-year-old has to leave the island now that period is over.
Indonesia has some of the world’s toughest anti-drugs laws, including a maximum penalty of death for traffickers.
The story of Corby has fascinated the public in her homeland like few others in recent times.
Her steadfast proclamations of innocence and well-documented fight with mental illness in prison generated much sympathy in Australia, where she was often depicted as the victim of a conspiracy.
The view of her case is starkly different in Indonesia, where many see Corby as a common criminal who simply broke the country’s tough anti-drugs laws.
Australian media have flown into Bali en masse and have been camped out outside the house where Corby has been living in the popular Kuta area of the island.
On Saturday morning, dozens of Australian and other international media, as well as local journalists, have been standing by outside Corby’s villa waiting for her to be taken to her parole officer.
Police deployed at least 100 officers to secure Corby’s departure, from her house to the parole officer’s office and the airport.
Her sister Mercedes has flown in to help her prepare to be deported back home by Indonesian authorities, and fight through the media scrum both in Bali and when she touches down in Australia.
Authorities on Bali — a palm-fringed, tropical island popular with Australian holidaymakers — have pledged to ensure she departs safely.
“We have coordinated with the immigration department, we will guard until she leaves for Australia,” said Hadi Purnomo, police chief of the Balinese capital Denpasar.
She is expected to fly out of Bali at around 10:00 pm (1400 GMT) and touch down in the city of Brisbane early Saturday.
Corby was convicted in 2005. The end of her sentence was brought forward after she received several remissions for good behaviour, and a five-year cut following an appeal to clemency to the Indonesian president.
Indonesia has stepped up its campaign against drug use since Corby was jailed.
Two Australians were put to death alongside six other foreigners and one Indonesian in April 2015 for drug smuggling, sparking a serious diplomatic row between Jakarta and Canberra.