Convicted smuggler Renae Lawrence has flown back to Australia, more than a decade after she was caught at a Bali airport with 2.7kg of heroin strapped to her body in part of a bid to smuggle a total of 8.3kg of the drug into Australia.
Lawrence, 41, was released from Bangli Prison yesterday (Wednesday), where she was serving a 13-year sentence.
Arrested in 2005, she is the first of the “Bali nine” group to be freed.
Two ringleaders, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, were executed in 2015, while another, Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, died of stomach cancer in June.
Lawrence was originally sentenced to life in jail, which was cut to 20 years and then more than six years were removed for good behaviour.
Lawrence said she was “physically and mentally” healthy on her release.
Bangli Prison governor, Made Suwendra, said Lawrence was emotional and tearful as she said goodbye to some inmates and prison officers.
She is banned from returning to Bali for life.
When she returns, Lawrence faces two arrest warrants from New South Wales police that have been outstanding since 2005.
One warrant alleges she was involved in a high-speed chase in a stolen car but police commissioner Mick Fuller said a deal with her lawyers was the most likely outcome.
Australia’s home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, said he had no sympathy for Lawrence and rejected suggestions of leniency.
“If you commit that offence, there is a heavy penalty to pay, and it doesn’t give you credit when you get back to Australia,” he said.
Chan and Sukumaran were executed by firing squad in 2015, despite repeated Australian pleas for clemency, damaging bilateral ties.
Canberra deals heavily with Indonesia on security and trade.
Australia’s nearest major neighbour, as the world’s largest Muslim population, is important for Canberra’s counter-terrorism strategies.
The relationship reached a low point around East Timor’s independence in the late 1990s and the ongoing separatist demands for sprawling Papua adds friction to relations with Jakarta.
Fellow inmate Matthew Norman told the Australian media that he wished Lawrence “the best of luck”.
“She has done what she needs to do to get out,” the inmate said.
“For me, I’m still here with a life sentence and I’m still doing all that I can to better myself. I still have hope that my sentence will come down.”
Renae Lawrence arrives in Australia. Picture credit: YouTube