Indonesia to release drug convict Frenchman on parole
Jailed French national Michael Blanc look stands in Cipinang prison in Jakarta, April 19, 2011 - by Romeo Gacad
The rare approval for the early release of a foreigner will raise hopes for high-profile Australian drug trafficker Schapelle Corby, whose efforts to be freed on parole in recent months have been bogged down by bureaucratic wrangling.
Michael Blanc, 40, was arrested the day after Christmas in 1999 at the airport on the resort island of Bali with 3.8 kilograms (8.4 pounds) of hash hidden in diving canisters.
"Michael Blanc's parole has been approved," the justice ministry's prisons spokeswoman Ika Yusanti told AFP, but added it will still take a day or two to work out administrative details.
But after this "we will process his release as soon as possible", she added.
Blanc will have to stay in the Muslim-majority archipelago until the end of his prison term, on July 21, 2017.
Blanc's mother, Helene Le Touzey, said his parole application had been accepted and he should be released in the coming week, but she also struck a cautious note.
"I don't think they will backtrack on this but there have been such ups and downs in this case," Le Touzey, who has lived in Indonesia for years to be close to her son, told AFP.
"I don't think the prison will want to create trouble. But there is so much bureaucracy and so many rules that it is hard to know where we are going and what awaits us," she added.
Blanc has always maintained his innocence, insisting that he was given the diving canisters to transport by a friend. He was originally sentenced to life in prison but his sentence was reduced to 20 years in 2008.
Blanc will be the first foreigner to be freed on parole in Indonesia in recent years, and his release will boost hopes for Corby.
Bali's corrections board in August recommended Corby for early release from the island's notorious Kerobokan jail but the process has run into a series of bureaucratic hurdles.
Corby was sentenced to 20 years in jail in 2005 for smuggling 4.1 kilos (nine pounds) of marijuana into Bali the previous year but she has received several remissions and a sentence cut of five years from the president.
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