A petition was created this week that calls on various political figures to help free a UC Berkeley alumna who was first arrested in the Southeast Asian country of East Timor in September and detained for a second time in late October.
Stacey Addison, a 41-year-old veterinarian, was traveling around the world when she entered East Timor on Sept. 5 because her Indonesian visa was about to expire. While she was sharing a taxi with another man into Dili, the capital city, the man stopped to pick up a package, which authorities later said contained methamphetamines. Addison was detained in connection to the crime, which she and her friends say she had nothing to do with.
After four nights in jail, Addison was released on conditional liberty, which required her to stay in the country for the duration of the investigation. After her second arrest, Addison was transported to a women’s prison about an hour outside of Dili, where she is currently being held. Addison has not been questioned by the prosecution since her initial arrest in September.
“We’re just doing everything, and her friends are doing all they can,” said Bernadette Kero, Addison’s mother. “We’re grateful for that.”
The petition, which was drafted by Angelina Brouillette, a friend of Addison’s, is addressed to President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and East Timor Minister of Justice Dionisio Babo-Soares and calls on them to assist in freeing Addison. As of Tuesday, it had collected more than 700 signatures.
Beginning in January last year, Addison traveled through South America, Central America and Asia, volunteering in Peru and Ecuador. In the spring of this year, she embarked on the Asian leg of her travels, going first to the Philippines and eventually visiting Indonesia.
Since her arrest, Addison’s status has changed from suspect to witness, according to Suma Peesapati, a friend of Addison’s.
“She’s an innocent tourist,” Peesapati said. “Why is she behind bars? A witness shouldn’t be behind bars.”
In a Nov. 6 letter, U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to initiate a vote to appoint a U.S. ambassador to East Timor. The senators said Addison’s case highlighted the negative impacts of the Senate’s failure to confirm an ambassadorial nominee to the country.
“This is a place that has no legal infrastructure,” said Julia Wei, Addison’s friend. “East Timor has such a young judicial system, and I think that everyone just doesn’t know how to navigate the political process there.”
East Timor gained its independence from Indonesia in 2002 and became a democratic republic after being considered an Indonesian province for about 25 years.
Friends and family are “actively considering” different avenues to further raise awareness of Addison’s imprisonment, according to Peesapati.
“We’re trying every avenue to garner any support we can get,” Kero said. “It makes her feel better that people care about her and that she’s not forgotten.”