US traveler headed home after detainment in East Timor

AP News
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Posted: Mar 03, 2015 3:10 PM

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A globe-trotting veterinarian will return home six months to the day after she was arrested for being in the wrong car at the wrong time.

Stacey Addison, 41, boarded a plane out of East Timor and landed in Singapore, completing the first leg of a trip that concludes Wednesday night in Portland, Oregon.

"I'm just thrilled," her mother, Bernadette Kero, said Tuesday. "It's still hard to believe that it's pretty much over (after) so many delays and disappointments."

Addison was arrested in September after sharing a taxi with a stranger who asked the driver to stop so he could pick up a package. Police stopped the vehicle, determined the package contained methamphetamine and took everyone to the station.

Addison was released from jail after a few days, but she was ordered to remain in East Timor 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.

She was released from prison in late December, but she couldn't leave the Southeast Asian country because the authorities kept her passport. Addison stayed at the guest house of former President Jose Ramos-Horta while her lawyer and U.S. officials tried to secure her exit.

Her East Timor-based attorney, Paul Remedios, said in an email Tuesday that Addison got the passport back Friday.

The break, perhaps coincidentally, came after U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., brought up Addison's situation to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at a Feb. 24 hearing in Washington. Kerry said he was familiar with the case, and efforts to win Addison's release continued because there was "no legitimate explanation" for her detainment.

"This is terrific news for Stacey, for her family, and for all the Oregonians who have followed Stacey's story and helped support her from afar," Merkley said in a statement late Monday.

Merkley offered special thanks to Karen Stanton, the U.S. ambassador to East Timor, saying she had "worked tirelessly" to secure the release. He also thanked East Timor's ambassador to the United States, Domingos Sarmento Alves.

In November, Merkley said the absence of a U.S. ambassador in East Timor was harming the effort to free Addison and called on Senate leaders to end partisan gridlock and schedule a vote on Stanton's long-blocked nomination. Less than a week later, the Senate confirmed Stanton.

The veterinarian has been traveling the world since January 2013, starting in Antarctica.

"She sold her house and her car, so she's got a lot to figure out," Kero said.

But first, Kero said, Addison's friends planned to throw a welcome-home party.

Asked if her daughter planned to resume her interrupted travels, Kero — after six months of worry — laughed and said: "Oh, now, give me a break!"

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Steven DuBois at http://twitter.com/pdxdub