She was a working-class Australian vacationer pleading for mercy, asking judges to believe her: Someone had hidden nine pounds of marijuana in her body-board bag during a trip to Bali.

But the Indonesian court, treating her as just another player in the country's growing drug trade, sentenced Schapelle Leigh Corby, 27, a beauty school student, to 20 years in prison last week for drug trafficking.

Protests erupted in Australia after the verdict, and the Indonesian Embassy in Canberra was threatened on Wednesday by a biological warfare attack that appears to have been a hoax. The woman's plight now threatens relations between the two countries.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard offered a rare and immediate apology for the embassy scare, and his foreign minister called his Indonesian counterpart to ease tensions.

But these gestures have not stilled the demand from some Indonesians that the government issue a formal travel warning for Australia, which has repeatedly cautioned its citizens about visiting Indonesia because of possible attacks by Islamic militants.

"There is a kind of superiority complex in Australia and a bit of racism," said Djoko Susilo, a member of the Indonesian parliament's foreign affairs committee. "It is ironic that someone who has been convicted of smuggling drugs like that becomes a celebrity and heroine in Australian public opinion."

The sudden chill comes at a time when relations between the two countries had been their warmest in a decade. Indonesian bitterness had been easing over the role of Australian peacekeepers in helping East Timor secure its independence after the former Indonesian province voted to break away in 1999.

And many in Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim country, had chafed at Australia's close relations with the United States, including involvement in the Iraq invasion and permission for a U.S. military training facility in northern Australia. Moreover, Howard pledged during his election campaign last year to strike preemptively against Islamic terrorists elsewhere in the region -- an apparent reference to Indonesia.

But the tsunami that devastated Indonesia's Aceh province late last year brought an outpouring of support from Australia, whose forces were among the first on the ground with assistance. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited Canberra two months ago and gave a moving tribute to nine Australian navy and air force members killed in a helicopter crash while providing aid to the Indonesian island of Nias.

Last October, however, even before Yudhoyono took office, the seeds of renewed rancor were already hidden in Corby's bags.

Corby maintained during a trial on the Indonesian island of Bali that she was the unwitting victim of an Australian drug ring. Her defense team told the court that unidentified baggage handlers had tucked the plastic, vacuum-sealed packet of marijuana into her luggage sometime during the trip from her home in Brisbane to Sydney. For some reason, her team said, the drug ring had not retrieved the package before she transferred to an international flight to Bali.

Though no evidence was mustered in court supporting her account, a subsequent newspaper poll showed 90 percent of Australians believed her.

As the trial proceeded, Australian tabloids and talk radio shows fanned a solidarity campaign, often xenophobic and sometimes racist in character. One popular Sydney radio host derided Yudhoyono as "Wham Bam Thank You Ma'am Yiddiyono" and likened the Bali judges to monkeys.

"The judges don't even speak English, mate. They're straight out of the trees," said host Malcolm T. Elliott in one exchange last month. He continued, "I have total disrespect for our neighboring nation, my friend. Total disrespect."

Signs went up along Australian roads and on car windows calling on vacationers to boycott Bali. Corby partisans urged Australia to dispatch special forces to free her and demanded the government take back the $750 million in aid pledged to Indonesia to help tsunami victims.

Citing this financial assistance, Australian actor Russell Crowe urged a local radio station, "How can we as a country stand by and let a young lady, as an Australian, rot away in a foreign prison?"

Such reaction has been criticized in Australian news media. "All of this anger is misplaced," the Sydney Morning Herald said in an editorial Thursday. "Much of it has shown Australia and Australians in a very poor light -- boorish, ill-informed, often racist."

Greg Fealy, an expert in Indonesian-Australian relations at Australian National University, said the blanket television coverage of the trial became a compelling reality show for an audience that did not understand the Indonesian justice system. Many Australians mistook the standard workings of the court, including the right of judges to question witnesses, for ill will.

"There was a feeling that the judges had it in for Schapelle Corby," Fealy said. "Bubbling beneath the surface is a sense that Indonesia is less advanced and less civilized than Australia."

Rarely noted in the media was that the same Bali court that tried Corby won praise in Australia for convicting three dozen Muslim militants of involvement in the 2002 Bali nightclub attacks, which killed 202 people, many of them Australian tourists. The prosecutor in the Corby case won a death sentence for one of the bombing ringleaders, and the chief judge in the Corby case sentenced another ringleader to die.

On May 27, three Australian television stations broadcast the Corby verdict live. Media Web sites registered record hits as Australians flooded online to see if Corby's Silent Agony -- as the Sydney Daily Telegraph headlined it -- would end.

Corby stood before the judges with tears in her eyes. When they pronounced her guilty, saying she had been caught red-handed by customs officials, and sentenced her to prison, the courtroom full of relatives, supporters and Australian journalists erupted in pandemonium. Corby slapped her forehead.

"Liar! Liar!" her mother, Rosleigh Rose, shouted from behind. "Honey, we are going to take you home."

Indonesian and Australian legal experts said Corby got off lightly. In several neighboring countries, capital punishment would have been all but mandatory, and her lawyers, now weighing an appeal, must consider that a higher court could still amend the sentence to death.

Still, Australia's press responded with fury. "Judges Show Corby No Mercy," trumpeted the Australian newspaper. Officials at Australian charities helping tsunami victims said some donors have asked for their money back.

Indonesia and Australia are jointly investigating the incident at the Canberra embassy. Police said they believed the white powder, which authorities said was accompanied by a letter referring to the Corby case, had tested as harmless. The embassy has reopened.

Howard has appealed for restraint while warning about a possible anti-Australian backlash in Indonesia, where Vice President Jusuf Kalla has also advocated calm, telling Elshinta radio in Jakarta that he understood Australian sympathy for Corby.

"If it's a guy with a tattoo, people wouldn't care," Kalla said. "If you imagine your daughter in an Indonesian jail, coming from a simple family and having to sit among the criminals, of course you'd worry."

Interpreter Eka Sulistiowati, left, comforted Schapelle Leigh Corby last week after an Indonesian court sentenced Corby to prison.