Released Bali Nine drug-smuggler returns home to more legal woes
SYDNEY, Australia – An Australian woman held in Indonesian prisons for 13 years for being part of the "Bali Nine" drug-smuggling gang returned home Thursday, November 22, facing more possible jail time for alleged crimes committed before her overseas ordeal.
Renae Lawrence, 41, arrived in Brisbane shortly after dawn and then flew on to her hometown of Newcastle in New South Wales state. She is the only member of the group to find freedom.
Lawrence was met by a large crowd of reporters, photographers and TV cameras at both Brisbane and Newcastle airports, but ignored their questions.
She ran from the Newcastle terminal and jumped into a waiting vehicle to escape the media swarm and was driven off.
Police want to question Lawrence about outstanding arrest warrants dating from before her ill-fated departure for Bali in 2005, but did not prevent her from leaving the airport with family members.
Australian media reports said Lawrence faces two outstanding charges relating to a high-speed chase involving a stolen vehicle.
It was unclear if Newcastle police would pursue the charges, but federal Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton argued that she should not be given "credit" for her time in Indonesian prison.
"If you've committed offenses in our country, you need to face the justice system here," he said prior to her return.
Lawrence, the only female member of the Bali Nine, was caught with 2.6 kilograms (5.7 pounds) of heroin strapped to her body as she tried to board a flight back to Australia from Bali.
She was initially handed a life term, but her sentence was later reduced to 20 years and then further cut due to good behavior.
Of the 9 in the original group, ringleaders Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were executed by firing squad in 2015, sparking a diplomatic row between Australia and Indonesia, which has some of the world's strictest drug laws including the death penalty.
Another member, Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, died in prison in June from stomach cancer, while the remaining 5 are currently serving life sentences.
Some critics have lashed out at the Australian police for tipping off their Indonesian counterparts about the gang and putting its members at risk of execution in Indonesia. – Rappler.com