A UC Berkeley alumna set flight for her home in Portland, Oregon, from East Timor this week following an almost seven month detainment in the country.
Stacey Addison, a veterinarian, was jailed twice in relation to an incident of alleged drug trafficking that she denies committing. Despite being released back in December, she was prevented, for various reasons, from leaving the country until March 3.
While awaiting the release of her passport, Addison stayed at the house of former East Timor president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta. Addison’s attorney Paul Remedios confirmed that she left East Timor on Tuesday and was slated to arrive home Wednesday night.
Addison was arrested in East Timor last September when the passenger she was sharing a taxi with — who Addison said was a stranger — was found to be in possession of what police said were methamphetamines. Despite body and baggage searches and a urine test that Addison said she was told produced no indication of drug use or trafficking, she spent four nights in a jail cell.
Upon her release, Addison was afforded conditional liberty that prevented her from leaving the country as she awaited trial. It was at this point that she contacted her friends and family. She was imprisoned a second time in late October from an appeal filed by the prosecutor.
“It’s kind of disorientating for a Westerner to be confronted with that fact that people don’t have the rights we enjoy at home,” said Julia Wei, a friend of Addison and UC Berkeley alumna. “To hear that she was detained a second time was tragic beyond anything.”
It took a multi-faceted effort to bring Addison back home. After she was arrested for a second time, her friends and family sought to raise awareness of Addison’s plight through a Facebook page that has garnered more than 15,000 likes. In addition, they set up a GoFundMe campaign that raised more than $5,000 for Addison’s legal expenses, and posted an online petition with more than 130,000 signatures imploring Timorese and American legal authorities to facilitate Addison’s return home.
In the political sphere, Oregon senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden pushed for the confirmation of the nomination of a new U.S. ambassador to East Timor to allow for Addison to be released faster. In a Senate hearing in late February, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry added that there was “no legitimate explanation for how she has been detained.”
According to Cristy Fajardo, Addison’s friend and UC Berkeley alumnna, Addison returns with a solemn gratefulness for the small kindnesses she experienced during her plight, courtesy of her loved ones and the occasional stranger.
“I thought she would come away cynical, but it seems like the opposite is true,” Fajardo said.