Three Mexican brothers held on suspicion of producing methamphetamine in Malaysia face the death penalty if convicted of drug trafficking, a government lawyer said Wednesday.
The three were arrested together with a Malaysian and a Singaporean in March 2008 at a secluded factory in Malaysia's southern Johor state where police found more than 63 pounds (29 kilograms) of methamphetamine worth 44 million ringgit ($15 million).
All five were charged with drug trafficking, which carries a mandatory penalty of death by hanging on conviction.
The Kuala Lumpur High Court is scheduled to hear defense lawyers present their case April 27, said prosecutor Umar Saifuddin Jaafar.
The brothers are Jose Regino Gonzalez Villarreal, 33, Simon Gonzalez Villarreal, 36, and Luis Alfonso Gonzalez Villarreal, 43. The other two accused are Lim Hung Wang, a Singaporean, and Lee Boon Siah, a Malaysian.
The Mexicans' other brother, Jose Gonzalez Villarreal, has urged their country's government to help them, saying the family has only spoken to the three suspects twice since their arrest and have little knowledge of developments in the case.
"My parents are in despair over the situation," he said in a telephone interview in the western city of Culiacan. "We really haven't been able to do anything because of our lack of resources. We are poor people."
The three brothers have no criminal record in Mexico, according to Martin Gatelum, a spokesman for the attorney general's office of the western state of Sinaloa, a major drug trafficking hub and the cradle of a powerful Mexican cartel of the same name.
The Mexican Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Umar Saifuddin, the Malaysian prosecutor, said authorities believe the raided factory produced methamphetamine because in addition to the drugs they found traces of chemicals and possible drug-making equipment. It was believed to have been operating for about six months before the raid.
The High Court ruled last month it was unreasonable to conclude that it was a mere coincidence that the Mexican brothers, who were in Malaysia on tourist visas, were at the factory during the raid, according to Umar Saifuddin. Defense lawyers did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Associated Press writer Ricardo Gonzalez in Culiacan, Mexico, contributed to this report.