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French drug trafficker set to be released from Indonesian jail

Michaël Blanc and his mother Hélène Le Touzet at the Jakarta prison where the 40-year old has been held.
Michaël Blanc and his mother Hélène Le Touzet at the Jakarta prison where the 40-year old has been held. AFP PHOTO / ROMEO GACAD
2 min

A Frenchman convicted of drug trafficking in Indonesia is set to be freed after spending 14 years in jail. Michaël Blanc's case was the subject of widespread media coverage in France, with politicians and celebrities calling for his release.

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“The conditional release of Michaël Blanc has been approved,” Ika Yusanti, a spokeswoman for the Indonesian justice ministry, told news agency AFP. The 40-year old is currently held at a jail in Jakarta.

The procedure to release him “could take one to two days”, she added.

Blanc was arrested at Denpasar International Airport on Boxing Day in 1999 after officials found 3.8 kilograms of hashish rolls and tablets in two diving tanks in his luggage. At the time, he said the tanks belonged to a friend, but he failed to provide sufficient evidence to support his story.

Originally sentenced to life in prison in 2000, the sentence was reduced to 20 years in December 2008. He became eligible for parole in February 2012 after serving two-thirds of his sentence, as is the law in Indonesia.

Blanc’s mother, Hélène Le Touzey, left France and moved to Indonesia to be by her son. She has welcomed her son’s release.

“Today, a new step has been taken. He should be able to leave next week,” she said.

However, since Indonesia and France do not have a prisoner exchange agreement, Blanc will have to stay in the country until 21 July 2017, his original release date.

Over the years, his case received widespread and often emotional media attention in France and abroad. Politicians, celebrities and lawyers have publicly called for Blanc’s release.

His case has often been compared to that of Frenchwoman Florence Cassez, who was freed in January 2013 after serving seven years in a Mexican prison for kidnapping and organised crime.

There have also been suggestions that his release could set a precedent for other foreigners jailed in Indonesia, such as that of Australian woman Schapelle Corby. She is currently serving a 20-year jail sentence in Bali after being found with 4.2 kilograms of cannabis in a body board bag.

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