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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Indonesia to free Bali Nine drug smuggler Lawrence

Renae Lawrence's life sentence has been reduced for good behaviour

Australian Renae Lawrence holds hands with relative before her drug trafficking trial at a court in Denpasar, Indonesia, in 2005. AFP
Australian Renae Lawrence holds hands with relative before her drug trafficking trial at a court in Denpasar, Indonesia, in 2005. AFP

The first of a group of nine Australians convicted for trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia in 2005 will be released from a Bali jail later this month, Australia's national broadcaster reported on Tuesday.

Renae Lawrence, 41, was originally sentenced to life for her role in the drug-trafficking syndicate but this was later cut to 20 years and then further reduced for good behaviour. She is due to be released on November 21, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported.

Lawrence's father, Bob, told the ABC his daughter was "a nervous wreck" over the level of media attention she would receive when she returned home and that she had already paid "a very heavy price for her crime".

Two of the so-called Bali Nine, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, were executed in 2015 sparking a diplomatic row between Australia and Indonesia, which has some of the world's strictest drug laws.

Another member of the group, Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, died of kidney cancer earlier this year.

The other five are all serving life sentences.

It is likely that Lawrence will be deported shortly after her release. She will be the only member of the Bali Nine to win freedom so far.

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.

High-profile cases like that of Australian Schapelle Corby, who spent more than nine years behind bars for smuggling marijuana into Bali, have stoked concern that Indonesia is becoming a destination for trafficked drugs. Corby was deported in 2017 after several years of parole.