Indonesia’s president has left the door open to granting clemency to Australian drug smuggler Schapelle Corby.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard raised Corby’s clemency plea with Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during their first official talks in Jakarta on Tuesday.
Ms Gillard told Dr Yudhoyono the Australian government supported Corby’s clemency plea, which was lodged earlier this year and argues the Queenslander is suffering depression and a mental illness that could endanger her life.
Asked later if he would grant Corby clemency Dr Yudhoyono did not rule it out, despite previously saying he would not grant clemency to drug smugglers.
However, he placed more emphasis on ongoing negotiations for a prisoner transfer agreement, which could see Corby brought back to Australia.
“This is what we need to develop – the balancing of the principle of ‘justice must be upheld’ and the consideration of the humanitarian aspects,” he said of a possible agreement. “I am quite optimistic that we will be able to develop such a framework.”
Corby was arrested at Bali airport in 2004 with 4.2kg of marijuana in her boogie board bag and is now serving a 20-year sentence.
Ms Gillard said she had also raised the cases of three of the Bali Nine drug smugglers – Scott Rush, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran – who are on death row with final legal appeals in train.
“Should those legal proceedings finalise with Australian citizens facing the death penalty then at that point the Australian government would indicate its support for clemency,” she said.
Dr Yudhoyono was also asked whether he supported Ms Gillard’s proposal for an asylum seeker processing centre in East Timor but said he still needed more details.
“To ensure that the regional processing centre is a proper way in improving the effectiveness in our regional co-operation in dealing with people smuggling,” he said.
“Indonesia is open to that but we have to discuss in depth to ensure once again that this is a solution to our regional problem.” Some Indonesian officials have complained it will act as a magnet, bringing more asylum seekers to the region. The leaders also discussed economics and trade, agreeing to negotiate a comprehensive economic partnership agreement.
“One that not only comprehends further trade liberalisation but deals with the full range of economic issues that bring our countries together,” Ms Gillard said.
Ms Gillard announced her government would spend $500 million to continue Australia’s school building program in Indonesia, which has already helped build 2000 schools across the country.
“This will enable the construction of 2000 new schools and it will enable 1500 current Islamic schools to be brought up to accreditation standards,” she said.
Ms Gillard also announced another $1.1 million for recovery efforts in the Mentawai Islands, which were devastated by a deadly tsunami late last month, bringing Australia’s total contribution to $2.1 million.
Before the meeting, Ms Gillard indicated she would not be pressing Dr Yudhoyono on human rights concerns, despite the recent emergence of a video showing Indonesian troops torturing a Papuan separatist.
“President Yudhoyono has already indicated that those matters will be the subject of an investigation, I welcome that,” she said. Indonesia was the final leg of Ms Gillard’s first prime ministerial tour of Asia.
She visited Vietnam for the East Asia Summit at the weekend before travelling to Malaysia for bilateral talks there.
Ms Gillard’s proposal for a regional protection framework and processing centre for asylum seekers has been high on her agenda.