DILI, East Timor — American traveler Stacey Addison says she was detained for months in East Timor because she unwittingly shared a taxi with a stranger carrying methamphetamine. Now she’s out of jail — and a guest of a former East Timor leader.
Addison, 41, of Oregon, was released from an East Timor prison Thursday, nearly four months after her initial arrest in the small Southeast Asian nation in a drug case in which she says she’s innocent.
Addison appeared before reporters Thursday at the home of former East Timorese President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, who says he’ll host her temporarily at his home.
Details on the reasons and conditions for her release, or when she would be able to leave the country, weren’t available. She couldn’t leave immediately Thursday, because her passport — seized during the investigation — had not been returned.
The U.S. State Department welcomed the decision, according to department spokesperson Jen Psaki, but confirmed that Addison remains in Timor-Leste where the government still retains her passport.
Both she and Ramos-Horta said they would not discuss details of the case.
Addison was asked what she would do when she is able to obtain a passport. Her answer: “Go home.”
“I don’t think my mom would ever forgive me if I didn’t come home immediately and stay for a while,” she said.
Addison’s arrest in September was an unexpected bump in what had been a multi-year trip around the world.
She said she had been traveling solo since January 2013, having quit her job as a veterinarian to explore the globe. On September 5, she was sharing a cab from near the Indonesian border to the East Timor capital of Dili.
On the way, a fellow passenger asked to stop to pick up a package at a DHL office, her mother, Bernadette Kero of Oregon, said. After the man picked up the package, police surrounded the car and arrested the occupants, according to Kero.
The package was found to contain methamphetamine, Addison has said.
She initially was held for four nights, and a judge released her — but prevented her from leaving the country while the case was still being investigated — after the man testified that he didn’t know her, Kero said.
In late October, during a court appearance where she thought she’d retrieve her passport, a judge ordered her arrest again and sent her to Gleno prison outside Dili.
Paul Remedios, a lawyer representing Addison, said at the time that the court detained her again because there was a warrant for her arrest, and that the reason for the warrant was unclear.
Addison said Thursday that she had petitioned for her release earlier this month, but didn’t expect to be released on Thursday.
“I had kind of thought it wouldn’t happen because it’s Christmas — that everything would be closed,” she said. “I knew there was a petition pending, but it had been three weeks and I had heard nothing.”
Kero said last month that the case was a “nightmare.” On Thursday, she said her daughter’s release was “the best Christmas present I could imagine.”
“The past four months have been an extremely stressful time for all of us,” Kero wrote in an email Thursday. “Of course we are now hoping that her passport will be returned and she will be able to return home to Oregon very soon.
“Her lawyer will work on getting her passport released. I just want to be able to see her and give her a big hug.”