Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Injustice in Fiji, but what about Corby?

A couple of disappointing stories about encounters between Australians and justice systems around the world. Firstly, a story from Fiji (story from AAP, via The Age):

Australian jailed for gay sex

A Fiji court has jailed an Australian tourist for two years for what the judge called a "shameful" and "disgusting" homosexual act.

Retired university lecturer Thomas Maxwell McCoskar, 55, and a Fijian man had pleaded guilty to having sex in the city of Nadi over the Easter period and asked the court for leniency, the Fiji Times reported.

Gay sex is illegal in Fiji, a nation of conservative Christian values, and carries a jail sentence of up to 14 years.

In sentencing the pair yesterday, Magistrate Syed Muhktar Shah said the crimes committed by McCoskar, from Victoria, and Dhirendra Nandan, 23, were "something so disgusting that it would make any person vomit". (Glad to hear the magistrate was unbiased and didn't let his own personal opinion get in the way of his judgement.)

Shah said McCoskar's actions bordered on paedophilia. (McCoskar's partner was 23, so I guess the average Fijian kid is a late, late bloomer.)

"If you wanted to have fun, you should have stayed in Australia instead of trying to come to Fiji and exploit our young boys," he said. (You can see that race is hiding just beneath the surface, despite being irrelevant to the facts of the case.)


In another story, the day of judgement is getting closer for Schapelle Corby. Again, from AAP via The Age:

Corby set to hear trafficking penalty

Accused Australian drug trafficker Schapelle Corby may learn tomorrow what penalty she faces if found guilty by an Indonesian court.
....
Tomorrow, as part of the Indonesian justice process, prosecutors are scheduled to tell the court's three-judge panel what punishment they think should be imposed if Corby is convicted.

Ultimately, it will be up to judges to decide Corby's guilt or innocence and what penalty should be handed down, if any.

That decision is not expected until early to mid-May.


Unusually, the Indo courts decide what the penalty for a guilty verdict will be a long time before the verdict itself is delivered. Strangely, Corby may be better off with a severe penalty (ie, death by firing squad) since it makes it more likely that the judge will seek to spare her from it by delivering a Not Guilty verdict. If a less severe penalty was on the table (ie, life inprisonment), one can imagine the judge being much more willing to deliver a Guilty verdict.

Personally, I'm convinced of Corby's innocence. She seems to be the unfortunately victim of some supremely bad luck, and some grossly irresponsible baggage handler. Hopefully the Balinese court will see things the same way.

Not everyone is convinced, though. Recently I was chatting to a friend who has had a heavy involvement in working with drug couriers into South East Asia. She suspected that Corby was likely to have been a willing courier who pleaded ignorance once caught, and that the circumstances that she found herself in were likely to be of her own making. Hmmm, I don't agree, but I do trust the source.

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