Released Bali Nine drug-smuggler returns home to more legal woes

SYDNEY (AFP) – An Australian woman held in Indonesian prisons for 13 years for being part of the “Bali Nine” drug-smuggling gang returned home on Thursday (Nov 22) but faces more possible jail time for crimes committed before her overseas ordeal.

Ms Renae Lawrence, 41, flew into Brisbane shortly after dawn following her early release. She is the only member of the group to find freedom.

Ms Lawrence was met by a crowd of reporters and photographers at Brisbane airport, but ignored their questions as she walked with family members through the arrivals area to an airport shuttle.

She was due to catch a domestic flight to her home city of Newcastle, where police want to question her about outstanding arrest warrants dating from before her ill-fated departure for Bali in 2005.

Australian Police Commissioner for the state of New South Wales Mick Fuller told The Australian newspaper that there were two outstanding arrest warrants for Ms Lawrence, reportedly relating to a high-speed chase involving a stolen vehicle.

It was unclear if New South Wales police would pursue the charges, but federal Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton argued that she should not be given “credit” for her time in Indonesian prison.

“If you’ve committed offences in our country, you need to face the justice system here,” he said prior to her return.

Ms Lawrence, the only female member of the Bali Nine, was caught with 2.6kg of heroin strapped to her body as she tried to board a flight back to Australia from Bali.

She was initially handed a life term, but her sentence was later reduced to 20 years and then further cut due to good behaviour.

Of the nine in the original group, ringleaders Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were executed by firing squad in 2015, sparking a diplomatic row between Australia and Indonesia, which has some of the world’s strictest drug laws, including the death penalty.

Another member, Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen, died in prison in June from stomach cancer, while the remaining five are currently serving life sentences.

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.

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