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Australian drug smuggler banned from Indonesia after release

Indonesia said an Australian woman freed Wednesday after serving nearly 14 years in prison for smuggling heroin to the tourist island of Bali will be deported and banned from the country for life.

Renae Lawrence was the only woman among nine Australians who were arrested in 2005 for smuggling 8.3 kilograms of heroin from Australia to Bali.

Lawrence, 41, wearing black sunglasses and a black T-shirt, was escorted Wednesday afternoon through a crush of reporters outside Bangli prison on Bali into a waiting car. She made no comment.

Maryoto Sumadi, head of Bali’s justice and human rights office, said Lawrence will be deported to Australia within hours and is banned from re-entering Indonesia.

She may be the only member of the group dubbed the “Bali Nine” by Australian media to walk free from prison.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, the ringleaders, were executed by a firing squad in 2015, causing a diplomatic furor between often testy neighbors Indonesia and Australia.

Five others had their sentences increased to life on appeal and another member, Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, died from cancer in May.

Lawrence, whom Customs caught with 2.2 kilograms of heroin strapped to her body, was sentenced to 20 years in prison and fined 1 billion rupiah ($68,000). She didn’t appeal and almost every year her sentence was reduced during holiday remissions that are customary in Indonesia for inmates with good behavior, except those on death row or sentenced to life.

Lawrence’s sentence was completed in May but was extended by six months because she couldn’t afford to pay the fine, said Bangli prison chief Made Suwendra.

Another convicted Australian drug smuggler, Schapelle Corby, whose trial and imprisonment on Bali mesmerized her country for more than a decade, returned home last year.

Corby was arrested in 2004 at the age of 27 with more than 4 kilograms (9 pounds) of marijuana inside her boogie board bag, sparking a media frenzy in Australia on par with America’s O.J. Simpson trial.

Corby’s insistence that the drugs were planted by baggage handlers was dismissed as a lie by Balinese prosecutors. A court sentenced her to 20 years in prison, though that was later reduced.

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