Oregon mother calls daughter's East Timor release 'Christmas present'

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 26, 2014 8:33 PM

By Alex Dobuzinskis

(Reuters) - The mother of an Oregon woman newly freed from two months of imprisonment in East Timor said on Friday that news of her daughter's release was a "fantastic Christmas present," but it remained uncertain how soon she could return to the United States.

Bernadette Kero, 64, of Klamath Falls, Oregon, said she last spoke to her daughter, Dr. Stacey Addison, two nights earlier, just after she was let out of prison in Dili, the capital of the Southeast Asian country also known as Timor-Leste.

Addison, 41, a veterinarian from Portland, was visiting East Timor as part of a round-the-world trip when she was detained in early September on a drug charge.

After being held for five days, she was conditionally released without her passport, then arrested again in late October when she appeared in an East Timorese court to retrieve her passport and was sent to prison, according to the U.S. State Department.

Following behind-the-scenes diplomatic efforts to secure her freedom, Addison was released on Christmas Day. She has been staying since then as a guest at the home of former East Timorese President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, her mother said.

Addison has insisted she was wrongly accused. According to an account of her ordeal posted online by friends, she was first taken into custody when police arrested a man who was sharing a cab ride with her after he stopped to pick up a package of illegal drugs.

When re-arrested nearly two months later, she was told the prosecutor had appealed to have her conditional release from jail rescinded, according to the account.

Her release from prison was announced by the State Department on Thursday, and a department spokeswoman said on Friday she had nothing more to add.

As of Friday, Kero said, her daughter was still waiting for the East Timorese government to return her passport so she could leave the country.

"I just want it over with," the mother told Reuters by telephone.

"I'm very relieved that she's out of prison," Kero added, calling her daughter's release a "fantastic Christmas present."

Addison was quoted by CNN on Thursday as telling reporters that she planned to go home to Oregon as soon as she regained her papers, or her mother would never forgive her.

To that, Kero said on Friday, "She better come straight home. ... I want to see her."

(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis from Los Angeles; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Sandra Maler)