PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Stacey Addison, the Portland veterinarian held without charge in East Timor, was released from prison though she still can’t leave the country.
The 41-year-old who was originally arrested in September and then re-arrested a month later will stay at the guesthouse of former East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta. She will be medically evaluated and her lawyers will continue trying to get her passport returned.
In a note to KOIN 6 News, her mother Bernadette Kero said a representative from the US Embassy called her with the news. Addison’s East Timorese lawyer and the embassy representative spent the day at the court getting the paperwork in order.
On a trip around the world, Stacey Addison traveled from Indonesia to East Timor to renew her visa. While traveling in a hired car Sept. 5, the driver stopped to pick up another passenger. That passenger was being followed by the police, who then stopped the car and arrested everyone inside.
She was jailed for five days, and then posted on Facebook:
“…The parcel contained methamphetamine and everyone in the car was arrested. My bags were searched, my body was searched, all medications I am carrying were tested, and my urine was tested. Everything was negative but I was still arrested for drug trafficking. The man who picked up the package has testified he did not know me before we shared a ride to Dili, yet I am still not permitted to leave the country…”
She was released from jail but had her passport taken. Addison was then re-arrested Oct. 28 during a court appearance to get a copy of her denied appeal about her conditional release.
Since that time, Addison has been in a prison in Dili, held without charge. Her case has drawn international attention and more than 94,000 people signed an online petition calling for her release.
In a phone interview from her home in Klamath Falls, Kero said she got phone calls from both Sen. Jeff Merkley and from the US Embassy.
The embassy officer “said he had good news for me … that (Stacey) was to be released and they were going to follow an officer from the court up to the prison,” about 90 minutes away.
“I was just so relieved, I mean overwhelmingly relieved that she was going to get out of” prison, Kero said.
She said the lawyer told her it’s a step-by-step process to get Addison’s passport returned.
The turn of events was somewhat unexpected, she told KOIN 6 News. “I had about given up and thought this is going to be a terrible Christmas.”
But after she was released from Gleno prison, Addison “was able to call me when she got out,” and added it was a “tremendous relief to be able to hear her voice.”
For now, Addison is staying at the Ramos-Horta’s guest house “as he graciously offered.”
She credited KOIN 6 News reporter Amy Frazier with breaking the story and continuing to report on it.
“It’s just amazing all the support (Stacey’s) gotten, even from total strangers,” Kero said. “It’s just amazing, just amazing.”
Senator Merkley’s role
Merkley told KOIN 6 News he was feeling “overwhelming joy” at Addison’s release from prison.
“We pursued some back channels for folks who had connections to have them weigh in privately,” the senator said. “We just did everything we possibly could to find a way for her to be released from prison.”
He added it became a reality “because of a lot of conversations between the State Department and the government of East Timor.”
But Addison may not be able to leave East Timor anytime soon, he said.
“The government has said they are going to hold her in country until they can be absolutely certain that she has no connection (to the illegal drugs) and possibly hold her as a witness for the trial of the person who picked up the drugs.”
Merkley is still working behind the scenes on a deal.
“I hope we can arrange something where, if she agrees to come back to testify at a future trial, she can come back here to Oregon,” he told KOIN 6 News. “I’m going to keep advocating in any way I can.”
In November, he said the absence of a US ambassador in East Timor was hurting the effort to free Addison and called on Senate leaders to end the partisan gridlock and schedule a vote on the long-blocked nomination of Karen Stanton.
Less than a week later, the Senate confirmed Stanton.
A State Department spokeswoman said Thursday that Addison’s release is welcome news and embassy officials will continue to provide assistance.
KOIN 6 News reporter Chris Woodard contributed to this report.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.