A UC Berkeley alumna trapped in East Timor was detained this week and taken to prison without grounds, according to her attorney, who called the incident illegal and a “miscarriage of justice.”
Stacey Addison, who turns 41 next week, is a veterinarian who was traveling the world when she became a suspect in a drug trafficking crime she says she didn’t commit. On Sept. 5, she got into a vehicle with two men, a driver and passenger, the latter of whom picked up a package that allegedly contained methamphetamines.
Addison was arrested and jailed for four nights but was later released on conditional liberty: She needed to stay in the country while the investigation proceeded, which authorities told her could take up to a year. Addison checked into a hostel in the country’s capital, Dili, and had been staying there until her second arrest this week.
In the nearly two months she stayed in Dili, she had not been questioned by the prosecution.
Paul Remedios, the attorney representing Addison, filed a petition earlier this month to change her status from suspect to witness and to return her passport, which authorities had seized after her first arrest.
The petition was denied Monday, and about a day later, Addison was arrested again while with Remedios at court. She was temporarily jailed in a Dili facility then transferred to a women’s prison about an hour outside city limits.
A representative from the U.S. Embassy in East Timor contacted Addison’s mother, Bernadette Kero, on Tuesday night with the news. Since word spread through social media, questions have swirled among Addison’s family and friends about the rationale for her detention.
“We’re all petrified,” said Suma Peesapati, Addison’s close friend whom she met while attending UC Berkeley. “We don’t know exactly where she is. We can’t contact her. It’s any traveler’s worst nightmare.”
After Addison’s rearrest, Remedios learned the prosecutor assigned to Addison’s case had filed a petition a month ago to detain Addison. But Addison and her family, friends and attorney were not informed about the paperwork.
Remedios immediately filed an appeal for her release, Kero said. In an email, Remedios said Addison’s “human rights were violated.”
Members of East Timor’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Justice could not be reached for comment.
“We thought everything was going well — she cooperated,” Kero said about her daughter. “She asked them to question her. She had nothing to hide.”
The case has attracted attention from U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, and the U.S. Department of State, whose staff are scheduled to meet with East Timor’s ambassador Nov. 7 to discuss Addison’s situation, according to an email sent from a representative in Merkley’s office to Kero.
But as long as she is kept in prison, friends remain concerned about Addison’s mental health after she communicated psychological stresses and flashbacks from her first experience in jail.
“I just worry about her safety and who’s going to look after her,” Peesapati said. “Her friends and family are begging the state department to intervene and get her home.”