02:54 - Source: CNN
American woman held abroad in drug case

Story highlights

Stacey Addison was detained by police in September during a taxi journey

She says another passenger in the cab picked up a package containing drugs

Addison spent her birthday this week in a prison where she is being treated for an abscess

"It's been a nightmare. We just want her to be able to come home," her mother tells CNN

CNN  — 

Stacey Addison marked her 41st birthday this week in very different circumstances from previous years.

The American veterinarian from Oregon spent the day in a prison in the small Southeast Asian nation of East Timor. She’s being held there in connection with a drug investigation in which she says she was unwittingly caught up.

“It’s been a nightmare,” her mother, Bernadette Kero, told CNN on Wednesday. “We just want her to be able to come home.”

Addison shares a cell with two other women and has received treatment for an abscess at the prison clinic, her mother said.

“Never in a million years would I have thought that she’d be spending her birthday today in a prison,” Kero said with tears in her eyes.

‘She had no involvement’

The way that Addison, who has been traveling solo since January 2013, ended up in jail is a terrifying case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, according to her and her mother.

 Addison and her mom, Bernadette Kero, are seen in Costa Rica in June.

After working for 10 years as a vet and saving money, Addison quit her job, sold her home and belongings and set out to travel the world, setting aside a small nest egg for when she would eventually come home, Kero said.

Most of us have agreed to share a cab with a stranger while traveling, but we haven’t wound up in jail as a result.

On the way, another passenger asked to stop and pick up a package at a DHL office.

“My daughter was in the vehicle in the backseat,” Kero said. “She was looking up in her Lonely Planet to find a hostel, he came back with a package. At that point, the police surrounded the car and arrested all three of them.”

The package was found to contain methamphetamine, Addison said on her Facebook page.

Police searched her and her belongings and gave her a urine test, which she said came back clean.

“At that initial point she wasn’t that worried; she knew she had no involvement,” Kero said.

‘Very scared about the future’

But Addison was held for four nights in a detention center before being conditionally released by a judge.

“The person who picked up the package, he told the police and he testified before the judge that he didn’t know my daughter,” Kero said. “He had never met her before; he didn’t know the driver. He had just paid to hire the driver.”

Addison had been traveling around the world since January 2013.

But the terms of Addison’s release prevented her from leaving East Timor while the investigation into the case continued. She found herself caught up in the young developing country’s justice system and was advised to hire a lawyer.

“I am under a lot of stress and very scared about the future, but I am trying to stay strong,” she said in a Facebook post on September 24.

Her situation appeared to be looking up last week, when she had a court appearance to retrieve her passport.

But rather than giving Addison her papers and letting her go, the court detained her again and sent her to Gleno prison outside Dili, a U.S. State Department official said.

“She had thought this was being resolved – now this,” said her mother, who has set up a Facebook page titled PleaseHelpStacey.

‘A violation of human rights’

Paul Remedios, a senior lawyer representing Addison, said the court had detained her again because there was a warrant for her arrest – although the reason for the warrant remains unclear.

He said her arrest, in which she was deprived of the rights to a defense and to be heard before a judge, hadn’t followed due process.

“We consider this to be a violation of human rights,” Remedios said, but he warned that under East Timor’s criminal procedure law, an individual can be held in detention for up to a year while there is an ongoing investigation.

The East Timor Justice Ministry didn’t respond to calls from CNN seeking comment on Addison’s case Thursday.

The U.S. government is seeking “a fair and expeditious resolution to this case in accordance with Timorese law,” the State Department official said.

Hair cut short

For her first five days in Gleno prison, Addison was held on her own, according to Kero. Her long blond hair was cut short to comply with prison protocol.

But she’s since been moved to a unit with about 16 other women, at least one of whom has a child, Kero said.

She is being treated as well as can be expected and gets three meals a day, her mother said.

The U.S. Embassy is in “close contact” with Addison and a consular official visited her in prison on Tuesday, the State Department official said.

Kero said embassy staff have been “extremely supportive” in the case – they brought Addison a birthday cake recently.

She said she hopes a meeting Friday between U.S. State Department officials and the Timorese ambassador might help move the case forward.

The staff of Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon have been “working with the State Department and her family to get this resolved as quickly as possible,” said Hank Stern, a spokesman for the senator. Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley’s office is also working with the family, he said.

CNN’s Elizabeth Joseph and Chieu Luu contributed to this report.