Saturday, July 05, 2008

Ganja Queen

Schapelle Corby is a household name in Australia, but we in the U.S. are mostly unfamiliar with her. She was traveling from Oz to Bali and was caught with 10 lbs of marijuana in her bag.

But the case is a weird one -- there are claims that Australian baggage handlers were using travelers' luggage to send drugs from one Aussie airport to another (she flew from Brisbane to Sydney before going on to Bali).

The documentary "Ganja Queen" is airing on HBO, and while it presents a lot of interesting tangles on either side, we came away from it thinking she does seem innocent. She could have been executed by firing squad, but instead is in Indonesian prison until 2024.

Her Wikipedia entry has links to a lot of news articles about the case. Fascinating and disturbing.


Kris said...

While I haven't seen that documentary, I'd say public sentiment in Australia has now swung way, way against her. A couple of weeks ago, her defense lawyer admitted in an interview that they'd completely INVENTED the accusation that a baggage handler planted it on her, just to have something to throw doubt as to her guilt. They had absolutely no evidence, and it threw travelers here into a panic for years. The union of baggage handlers are threatening to sue for defamation or something.

Last week, one of the more prestigious news shows ran a story revealing that a police informant had told police that Corby's DAD has been drug running three weeks before her arrest. Which, yeah, shouldn't have any bearing on her own case, but her family have been looking pretty dodgy. It's really swung public opinion against her.

Anonymous said...

Hello Gael. As a long-time reader of your blog I was pleased to see that you responded to this documentary. I'm interested that you came away from it feeling that she was innocent. Here in Australia, I had a completely different response to the documentary. From the moment the case broke, endless tawdry current affairs shows paraded her family, friends, and supporters and the initial sense was that she had been set up. As more stories surfaced, the wide-eyed innocent who had been constructed by and for the defence started to look a tad less plausible.

On top of this, her lawyer has admitted this week to making the "baggage handlers" defence up. Also in the news this weekend, allegations have been made that Schapelle's father had a long involvement in the traffic of drugs into Indonesia.

None of this necessarily points to her guilt, but "not innocent" is sort of the frame in which I view this case.


govtdrone said...

I watched it and you are right--the doc. makes it seem like she is innocent yet other things I have read show she may not be. It was a very interesting doc though.

Anonymous said...

I too saw the documentary and was disturbed by the story. Not only does the sentence seem harsh, I walked away thinking she was innocent. Very sad.

Gael said...

Hey, Australians: Here's what I don't get. I read that her lawyer had made up the baggage-handler claim, but I was never sure if he really made it up OR if there had actually been a drug ring (with cocaine, not pot) operating in Australian airports using baggage handlers.

Was there one? Or was no baggage-handler drug connection of any kind made?

Because if there was one with coke, I could see the lawyer saying "conceivably, they could have used pot."

Also, for those who think she did it, is common feeling that she was just stoooopid to put such a giant bag so unprotected? Or do they feel the brother did it?

Anonymous said...

Hi Gael,

Yep there really was a drug smuggling ring involving Qantas baggage handlers. This much happened the same day and at the exact same time Corby's boogie board bag passed through a Sydney international airport. (This didn't even come out until long after Corby's conviction, and gained scarcely any mention in the Oz media) :

Accidental Drug Mule - Traffickers hid 10kg of cocaine in tourist's bag

AN Australian tourist became an unwitting drug mule when 10kg of cocaine was concealed in his luggage without his knowledge.
You can read the rest here

Tampoe didn't fabricate the defence. As others have pointed out, did he invent star witnesses like John Ford? It was a theory, but not an outright lie.

As for why much of the Australian public now think Corby is guilty, there are many, many reasons - some preposterous but people really say these things seriously. Like the biggest pothead I know who the other day knowingly told me she is guilty because she was a student at the age of 26. How could she afford to go to Bali? I reminded him that she worked amd Bali is a cheap holiday destination for Australians. As he'd know, having been there himself! He just looked at me like I was an idiot.

Other than that, the short answer is the relentlessly hostile media coverage after her conviction. It must be acknowleged too that while Schapelle herself presented very well on the 6 oclock news, some of the people close to her didn't. So once she disappeared behind bars and off television screens, it got easier for people to think that "The Corbys" and Schapelle were synonymous.

Kris said...

Today someone has come forward to say that he supplied the drugs she was caught with. According to him, the real buyer was her Dad and the destination was Bali. The Dad had some sort of arrangement with corrupt airport officials there and was meant to have included a bribe to have them wave the shipment through. He claims that they did this many times before, but somehow on this occasion the bribe wasn't in the bag. The guy claim that Schapelle knew all along that her Dad was a drug dealer.

Check out the article. It's pretty damning.

Whether or not there's ever been a corrupt baggage handler is irrelevant. In this particular case, the lawyer KNEW that they didn't do it. He completely fabricated it as a defense in this case because he had nothing else:

ROBIN TAMPOE: Three weeks to put a defence together. I put a defence together. Baggage handlers didn't put drugs in the bag. Nothing to do with it, but now she believes it. Who'll f***in' believe it, it is not true. That is why you can't put, find direct evidence relatin' to baggage handlers because they didn't do it.

It's fascinating, isn't it? Now the lawyers are made because this makes them all look dodgy, and the Transport Workers Union are pushing for an apology. And now mystery man turns up and says, "Yeah, here's what really happened..."

Brooke said...

Watched this last night and it seriously scared the living bejeezus out of me.

But while I can understand some of the doubt being cast upon her family, I still feel she looked pretty innocent.

Either way, makes me want to invest in some serious luggage locks, that's for sure.

Sandra Brighton said...

Schapelle Corby is innocent, and it takes genuine pond life to enjoy her suffering, and post hate messages against this dying woman on the internet. We see this activity in many places, by Australians.

Here are a few facts:

1. How the media there brainwashed the sheep:

2. Where the drugs really came from:

This is redefining how people across the world see Australia. But it is only just starting, because information about how the Australian government sold her to appease Indonesia is around the corner.

Here is the Facebook group for supporters: