explainer

What happened to each member of the Bali Nine, 13 years after their arrests.

In April 2005, nine Australians were caught attempting to smuggle 8.3kg of heroin out of Indonesia and into Australia. And so became the Bali Nine – an infamous example of what can go wrong when messing with illegal drugs overseas.

The following year ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were sentenced to death, Matthew Norman, Scott Rush, Si Yi Chen, Michael Czugaj, Martin Stephens and Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen were sentenced to life in prison, while Renae Lawrence received a 20-year sentence after a successful appeal.

This week, however, Lawrence walked free after serving almost 13 years in Bali’s Kerobokan and Bangli prisons. Under Indonesia’s leniency program, prisoners can make an appeal to have their sentences reduced for good behaviour and on specified public holidays. Lawrence had six years shaved off as well as several months in small blocks.

The 41-year-old, who arrived in Australia on Thursday, is the first Bali Nine member to be freed from jail, and she may be the last. So what happened to each of the other eight members?

Andrew Chan

Along with Myuran Sukumaran, Andrew Chan was found to be the ringleader of the group. This fact determined his punishment. In the eyes of the Indonesian courts, he and Sukumaran deserved harsher sentences than those who followed their instructions.

In February 2006 he was sentenced to death by a firing squad. After appealing to the Indonesia Supreme Court for his sentence to be downgraded, and a last-ditch appeal to the Indonesian president for clemency, failed, Chan and Sukumaran’s execution were carried out on 29 April 2015.

what-happened-to-the-bali-nine
(Top from L to R) Myuran Sukumaran, Scott Rush, Tach Duc Thanh Nguyen, Renae Lawrence, and (bottom row L to R) Si Yi Chen, Matthew Norman, Michael Czugaj, Martin Stephen and Andrew Chan, at various stages of their trials in Denpasar in 2005 and 2006. Image: Getty

Myuran Sukumaran

Myuran Sukumaran was sentenced to death on the same day as his co-ringleader Andrew Chan. Over the duo's time in prison, they became model inmates, running classes in cooking, art and English and offering their services as counsellors to fellow inmates. But this wasn't enough to convince judges or Indonesian President Joko Widodo to spare their lives.

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Chan and Sukumaran were executed together, along with six other prisoners, by a firing squad. They refused blindfolds and sang a hymn before they were shot.

Scott Rush

Scott Rush's parents inadvertently played a large role in the entire group's arrest.

Rush's father Lee Rush later said that the Australian Federal Police had been contacted on his behalf alerting them to his fears that his son was going to commit a crime during his upcoming trip to Bali. His parents said they were assured that the AFP would tell their 19-year-old son he was under surveillance to discourage him from leaving. According to Rush's lawyer, they did no such thing, instead tipping off the Indonesian authorities to a possible crime.

In a 2006 interview with ABC's Australian Story, Lee and Chris Rush said: "I feel very let down by our Australian Federal Police - we tried to lawfully stop our son leaving the country, it wasn't done."

Rush was sentenced to life imprisonment in February 2006, but an appeal in September that year saw his sentence surprisingly upgraded to the death penalty. For five years he sat, fearing the worst, until another appeal in 2011 saw his sentence reduced back to life.  He is currently carrying out his sentence in a prison in east Bali after being transferred out of Kerobokan prison.

Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen

Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen was just 22 when he was arrested as a member of the plot to import drugs into Australia.  The Vietnamese-born Australian, often considered the "forgotten" Bali Nine member, was convicted to life in prison over his involvement. After lodging an appeal, his sentence was upgraded to death, but a second appeal reduced it to the original sentence.

However,  Nguyen did die while serving time. In June this year, the Indonesian Corrections office, confirmed that the 34-year-old died in a Jakarta hospital from stomach cancer on 9 May.

Before his death, Nguyen did, however, have a brief period of happiness while in prison. In 2015 it was reported he was engaged to Lyudmyla Karpova, a then-26-year-old ambulance volunteer who worked in Italy.

Matthew Norman

Matthew Norman, the youngest member of the Bali Nine, met his future drug gang peers at the catering company Eurest, where Martin Stephens, Renae Lawrence and Andrew Chan also worked.

Like some of his fellow Bali Nine members, Norman's initial life sentence was bumped up to death upon appeal. But in 2008, Indonesian judges decided to downgrade the then-death penalties of Norman, Si Yi Chen, and Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen back to life sentences.

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In 2016 he told News Corp that he hoped he would be released early and be able to use the graphic design skills he has gained to start a career in Australia.

"I don’t believe I would die in this place. If it (reduction) doesn’t happen this year we try again next year,"

"We are not getting any younger. It would be good to go home soon and start our lives again with all the skills we have learned in here. It would be good to go home and start fresh."

Schapelle Corby returned home in March last year: 

Video by Seven News

Si Yi Chen

Si Yi Chen also experienced two years of thinking he was going to face a firing squad before learning he would spend the rest of his life in an Indonesian prison.

In 2017 he told ABC's Foreign Correspondent he had "complicated feeling" when his life sentence was first upgraded to death.

"It was actually a relief for me, knowing that I’m not going to rot in jail, but my parents told me not to give up," he explained.

"So when I got my sentenced reduced back to life sentence I said OK, look at it as God gave us a second chance to live."

Like his fellow living members, Chen just hopes he won't die without ever coming home.

Michael Czugaj

Micahel Czugaj suffered extreme disappointment when in September 2006 an appeal decision to reduce his life sentence to 20 years was reversed. He experienced another blow when he was moved from Kerobokan prison to a prison in Java that he said is a far tougher place to live.

In a 2017 interview, he said he still misses Chan and Sukumaran.

"I had many dark periods over the years and they helped me … took me under their wing," he told Fairfax.

"I miss them. I want to live and I want to get home ... for them and for myself."

Martin Stephens

Martin Stephens was arrested at Bali Denpasar airport where police found 3.3kg of heroin strapped to his body - and for that, he was sentenced to life in prison.

Stephens said during his trial that he was threatened by ringleader Andrew Chan, his supervisor at the catering company where he worked, into going through with the smuggling plan.

"They threatened me. They threatened my family, my friends, my love - my girlfriend… They showed me pictures," he said.

Stephens married Indonesian woman, Christine Winarni Puspayanti in 2011 and is currently serving out his time in a Java prison after being moved from Kerobokan prison in 2014.

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