Monday, June 16, 2008

The Beginning: Morpheus Meets Schapelle Corby

Until March 2008 I had never heard of Schapelle Corby. I am a busy guy: I run an internet business and have a wife and family to occupy any surplus time beyond that. I am also a Brit, and live on the other side of the planet to the locale of these events. The whole harrowing story had therefore escaped my attention completely.

Then it happened, the fateful search on 'Google Images'. I recall it quite vividly. I was seeking an image or design for one of our less than exciting legal web portals, and searched on something like 'law court', 'legal case' or similar. Amongst the myriad of search returns, which largely comprised thumbnails of grainy old judges and gavels, was the following:

It stood out like a sore thumb: a disturbing picture of innocence in distress. Like a fool I clicked it, totally unaware of the horror of I would subsequently uncover.

The text in the accompanying news article was stark and brutal. This young woman had been sentenced to 20 years in an Indonesian prison cell for apparently (yes, we'll come back to that) smugging cannabis into that country. STOP THERE! I certainly did. I stopped and re-read it. 20 YEARS? Surely not. Surely in any realistic scenario it will have been quashed or dramatically reduced on appeal?

Even from that first article it was also very clear that this was no ordinary 'trial'. There were scattered references to aspects which were quite simply outrageous. Off the top of my head I recall the refusal by police to forensically test the cannabis for origin, the refusal to fingerprint it, as well as some of the less than objective comments by the 'judge' during the trial itself. Yes, right from the off it had the pungent whiff of a show trial, transplanted to the modern era from the middle ages.

I felt a little sick as I rapidly searched Google on the term 'Schapelle Corby', half hoping and half expecting balance and sanity to be restored during the rest of the legal process. It quickly became apparent that this was not to be: other forces were at work. At the same pace, it became apparent that the issues above were just the tip of a very murky iceberg. Researching the trial and the circus around it revealed that the process had nothing whatsoever to do with seeking truth and justice, and everything to do with politics, corruption, and misplaced nationalist vengeance.

As with everyone who has scratched the surface of this, a host of questions entered my mind:
- Why was this allowed to happen?
- What the hell have the Aussie's been doing during the last 4 years?
- Why is no-one screaming at Indonesia that they have to respect human rights and release her?
- Can I do anything?

The former questions I will discuss in later posts: the answers reflect badly on just about everyone except Schapelle and her family. The last question though was the most frustrating in the immediate term: I really really HATE feeling utterly powerless, especially with respect to something important. But what could I possibly do? I thought 'nothing', so bookmarked the original page, and got on with running the company.

Well... that was the plan anyway. In reality I couldn't let it go. It was like a splinter in my mind. The vision of this poor woman suffering in a cage, and the barbarity of the sentence, returned frequently during the rest of the day. I even had difficulty sleeping.

The next day, back to the legal portal and thus the immediate trigger to put Schapelle back on the agenda for my thought processes. I delegated the portal development and spent some time conducting a more formal and detailed research exercise. The more I dug, the more unjust and hideously cruel it became. I therefore knew that I had to at least do SOMETHING to try to help.... however little help that might actually be.

Retrospectively, my journey was apparently exactly the same route as that embarked upon by most other decent folks: initial distress, anger at and hatred of those responsible, more distress, then frustration. I wanted to go to Bali and break her out personally.

But rationale and reality clearly has to prevail in the end, so I settled for using my skills and assets from here in the UK. The first manifestation of this was the development of this website, which the next post will cover.

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