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Man who spent 18 years in Indonesian jail for smuggling hash returns to France

Man who spent 18 years in Indonesian jail for smuggling hash returns to France

A Frenchman detained for 18 years after trying to smuggle drugs into Bali arrived in Geneva and was on his way home after being deported in a case that sparked outrage in France over Indonesia’s tough narcotics laws.
Police arrested Michael Blanc on the day after Christmas in 1999 at the tropical island’s airport with 3.8 kilogrammes (8.4 pounds) of hashish hidden inside scuba diving canisters.

Blanc, now 45, was given a life sentence — narrowly escaping the death penalty which has been handed to some other foreign drug traffickers, including two members of the notorious Bali Nine who were executed in 2015.

His prison term was later cut to 20 years, and in 2014 Blanc won something that few foreigners get in Indonesia — parole, though he was not allowed to leave the country immediately.

The three-year parole period ended in July 2017, and he then had to wait another year while on probation.

The former cook was escorted by immigration officials to Jakarta airport Saturday accompanied by his mother, Helene Le Touzey, who gave up her life in France to spend nearly two decades in Indonesia campaigning for his release.

“He has indeed arrived in Geneva,” Martial Saddier, a parliamentary lawmaker for Blanc’s native Haute-Savoie region in western France who is close to Blanc’s family, told AFP.

He was met by his father Jean-Claude Blanc and other relatives out of sight of the journalists gathered to cover his return, and they later left by a side door.

“I may be almost as nervous as he is,” Jean-Claude Blanc told AFP while waiting for his son’s plane to land.

Saddier said Blanc was going to remain several days in an undisclosed location. “He’s going to recover from these past nearly 20 years before making any public appearances,” he said.