BELIEVE IN FRIEND: Pictured at Byron Springs Guesthouse friends of Schapelle Corby
BELIEVE IN FRIEND: Pictured at Byron Springs Guesthouse friends of Schapelle Corby

Friends rally in their support of Schapelle

By MEGAN KINNINMENT

WHEN Jodie Power-Ripley visits the tiny Bali jail cell her friend Schapelle Corby shares with eight others, they never, ever, talk about why Schapelle is there.

The prospect of Schapelle being sentenced to death for drug trafficking, or the cramped cell with its putrid pit toilet becoming her prison for life, is unspeakable.

"We talk about anything but what is really happening," said Jodie, on a fleeting four-day visit back home to Byron Bay.

What is happening in Bali could be straight out of Bangkok Hilton, the 1989 film where Nicole Kidman is jailed for drug smuggling, and protests her innocence, except that for Schapelle, her family and friends, the drama is real.

Jodie Power-Ripley's life was turned upside down last October when her friend was detained by Bali customs officers who found four kilograms of marijuana in her unlocked boogie board bag.

Since that day, Jodie has put her life on hold to fight for her friend's freedom, setting up a permanent base in Bali to bring Schapelle food and to support her in court.

At home in the Byron Springs Guesthouse she usually runs with her husband Micheal Ripley, Jodie watched her two sons frolic beneath palm tress with their family dogs, Cyro and Mada, and for a brief moment things were okay.

But after four days, family life is to be put on hold again as Jodie makes the ultimate sacrifice in support of her friend: She will part indefinitely from her eight-year-old son, Sasha, so that he can resume his schooling in Byron Bay, while she returns to Bali with her threeyear-old son, Kalani, to continue her daily prison visits to Schapelle.

"If I put myself in her position, I'd want my friends to stick by me," Jodie said.

"I'e never been away from Sasha for more than a few days, but he needs to be back at school. He needs the stability and routine."

As Jodie talked about her battle to save her friend's life, her exhaustion was palpable and yet, so too is her gritty determination to see her friend walk free.

"You just can't give a death sentence to an innocent person," Jodie said defiantly.

"I refuse to believe it can happen.

"I've known her for 13 years. Out of everyone I've ever known, she's the last person in the world I would expect to be there (in prison).

"I keep thinking I'll wake up and she'll be home."

Yet the cards seem stacked against this dream. Bali customs officers have testified that Schapelle told them the drugs found in her bag were hers.

Crucial evidence has also been tainted in the case.

The boogie board has been corrupted with custom officers fingerprints, and documentary evidence has been lost.

Also, Bali Airport security video footage that could help Schapelle has, so far, been denied.

Indonesian media has branded Schapelle 'Ganja Queen' while Indonesian anti-drug campaigners have mercilessly hounded her family outside court, demanding that she be executed.

The Australian Government has so far been unable, or unwilling, to intervene.

Still, Jodie is adamant her friend has been set up, but by whom, or for what reason, there are no answers.

"We're still asking that," she said.

Micheal is also steadfast in Schapelle's defence.

"The whole thing is wrong," he said.

"Someone's put drugs in Schapelle's bag.

"The horrible thought is, this could have happened to Jodie. It could've happened to anybody."

Jodie is amazed at how well her friend is coping, but the strain is starting to show.

"After the last court day Schapelle just broke down, crying, she couldn't stop," Jodie said.

"She yelled at them in court 'You're playing with my life here'."

In Bangkok Hilton, Nicole Kidman's character is freed when the man responsible for smuggling drugs through her is caught.

If ever there was a real-life drama in need of a Hollywood ending, Schapelle Corby's could be it.

-Jodie has established the Help Free Schapelle (HFS) legal fighting fund to help pay for Schapelle's defence.

Donations can be made at any Commonwealth Bank Branch. Account name HFS Incorporated. BSB#(06)2124 Account# 10589692. Or email: hfsinc@hotmail.com



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