Associated Press in Portland, Oregon – A US traveler detained for months in Timor Leste has been released from prison.
Stacey Addison, 41, of Portland, was arrested in September shortly after crossing the border into the south-east Asian nation. The veterinarian was sharing a taxi with a stranger who asked the driver to stop the car so he could pick up a package. Police later stopped the vehicle, determined the package contained methamphetamine, and took everybody to the station.
Addison was released from jail after a few days, but she was ordered to remain in Timor Leste during the investigation. Then, in October, a prosecutor persuaded a court to rescind Addison's conditional release and she was taken to a women's prison, despite not being charged with a crime.
"I am overjoyed to learn of Dr Stacey Addison's release from prison," said US senator Jeff Merkley, who has been working to secure Addison's release. "This is wonderful Christmas news."
Addison's mother, Bernadette Kero of Klamath Falls, Oregon, said in a phone interview she is "tremendously relieved" and will be even more so when her daughter gets her passport returned. For now, Addison is staying at the guest house of former President Jose Ramos-Horta.
Kero said she spoke with Stacey twice on Christmas Eve, and her daughter, though obviously happy, was still in some disbelief over the whole situation.
"I anticipated it not being a very good Christmas," Kero said. "And this is just the best Christmas present, other than her actually coming home."
Addison has been traveling the world since January 2013, starting in Antarctica. Kero said her daughter has always loved to travel, and saved her money and sold her home in preparation for the lengthy trip.
In a statement, Merkley gave credit to the ambassadors from each nation. In November, he said the absence of a US ambassador in Timor Leste 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.