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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Tuesday, October 23, 2018

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US vet, suspected of drugs offence, hit by Timor Leste judicial ‘backlog’

A common practice in the south-east Asian country

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Stacey Addison. Police seized methamphetamines from her shared taxi and told her not to leave Timor-Leste. Photograph: Facebook news

An American veterinarian who sold her life belongings to travel the world has been detained in Timor Leste for suspected drug trafficking, after the taxi she was travelling in was found to be carrying methamphetamines, reports the Guardian

Stacey Addison, 40, from Portland, in the US, was arrested six weeks ago in the capital, Dili, but has not yet been formally charged by Timorese police. Under local law, police are allowed to take up to a year to investigate her case. Addison has been told she is not allowed to leave the country during the investigation.

“After the investigation they will decide whether or not to press formal charges against me,” Addison told the Daily Californian, the newspaper of her former university, UC Berkeley. “The investigation is secret, so I am not allowed to know any details.”

When she crossed the border from West Timor into Timor Leste on 5 September Addison had already been travelling for more than a year and working as a volunteer vet in various countries.

Passing through border control she paid $10 to share a private taxi with other passengers to Dili, a common practice in the south-east Asian country. While on the road they picked up another passenger who asked to stop at the local DHL office to fetch a package, Addison has claimed on her Facebook page headed Please Help Stacey. Within minutes, she said, Timorese police, apparently acting on a tip-off from Indonesian authorities, stopped the car and arrested everyone in it.

“It was really, really, scary,” she told the Oregon news station KOIN. “There was a lot of screaming in the car, everyone was talking in raised voices, but I didn’t understand what was happening.”

The Indonesian-Timorese border crossing is prone to drug trafficking due to the multiple entry points, unmonitored jungle roads and lack of police equipment, authorities claim. Addison said that after searching her and her luggage, and ordering a drugs test (which produced a negative result) the authorities let her go.

“The police apologised and told me they had to search me because I was in the same car, but that they now knew I just got in the wrong car,” she said. “They drove me to a hotel then came back one and a half hours later and arrested me.”

Addison spent four nights in prison until a local judge ruled she would have to be formally cleared of any wrongdoing but confiscated her passport. To date, she claims, no one from the police or prosecutor’s office has arranged to question her.

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