© 2023 MJH Life Sciences™ and dvm360 | Veterinary News, Veterinarian Insights, Medicine, Pet Care. All rights reserved.
Oregon veterinarian imprisoned in Southeast Asia
Stacey Addison, DVM, arrested in Timor-Leste as witness to a crime.
Update: Stacey Addison was released from prison on Dec. 24, 2014. Read the story here.
Stacey Addison, DVM, 41, of Portland, Oregon, is in a Timorese prison after being arrested in early September while traveling abroad. A chance encounter-a cab shared with a stranger-led to her witnessing a crime, which kicked off a chain of events that has family and friends doing everything they can to bring her home.
Addison, a graduate of the University of California-Davis, left her job of 10 years at a Portland veterinary hospital in January 2013 and set off on a year-and-a-half-long dream trip around the world to see wildlife. She had been planning the trip for two years.
Addison began in Antarctica, then traveled to South America, Borneo and Costa Rica, where her mother joined her for three weeks. In each location Addison focused on seeing national parks and preserves rather than spending time in cities so she could view wildlife, says her mother, Bernadette Kero. She traveled on a budget, staying in hostels and using local transportation.
“She kept a journal of all the birds and animals and her Facebook page was loaded with hundreds of exotic animals-jaguars, sloths, orangutans, bats, caiman and on and on,” Kero says. “She was disappointed that she didn't see an orangutan in the wild in Borneo, although she was able to see them at a preserve.”
Addison's dream trip turned into a nightmare in Timor-Leste, however. Timore-Leste, also known as East Timor, is an island nation that shares a border with Indonesia. It was colonized by Portugal in the 1500s, occupied by Japan during World War II, occupied again by Portugal and eventually taken over by Indonesia before gaining independence in 2002. Its judicial system is still developing, experts say-as Addison is now experiencing.
According to Addison's posts on Facebook, she crossed the land border from Indonesia on Sept. 5 and was one of two passengers in a private SUV acting as a taxi to Dili, the nation's capital. The other passenger asked to stop at a local DHL office to retrieve a package on the way. When he returned to the taxi, police, acting on a tip that the package contained drugs, stopped the SUV and arrested everyone inside.
Addison says on Facebook that she, the other passenger and the driver were taken to a police station where her bags and person were searched, all personal medications were tested for drugs and a urine test was performed. All tests came back negative. She was released after an apology from the officers, who told her they had to search her because she was in the same car as the suspect, but now they knew she wasn't involved. The officers then drove her to a hotel.
An hour and a half later, however, police returned to the hotel and arrested Addison again. She was held in the Dili Detention Center for four days, then released after a preliminary hearing. At that hearing the judge ordered Addison's passport held until further investigation had been completed.
Without warning, Addison was arrested again on Oct. 28 and has been in prison ever since. According to media reports, the court detained her again because there was a warrant for her arrest, though the reason for the warrant remains unclear. Addison's family has hired an attorney in Timor-Leste who has filed numerous petitions and appeals, but he has not received a response.
Kero says the arrest was illegal because of a lack of due process, as neither Addison nor her lawyer was notified of the warrant or impending arrest, which is required under Timorese law. The lawyer has also filed appeals based on human rights violations. “She is not charged with anything and has no court dates,” Kero says. “Under their law, she can be kept for one year without charge.”
The country has recently removed all its foreign advisors, Kero continues. The lawyer has told Kero that the prosecutor and judge in Addison's case have both been removed due to gross negligence in an unrelated case and left the country. Before the second arrest, Addison had been in contact with the U.S. embassy in Dili, she says on Facebook, but they could offer only limited assistance-the United States cannot interfere with the judicial process of another country.
A Facebook page, Help Stacey, has been created to garner support for Addison's release, along with a Twitter account, @HelpOurStacey, and a Change.org petition. Dr. José Ramos-Horta, former president of Timor-Leste and a Nobel laureate, has visited Addison in prison and offered his help, according to CNN. Kero also suggests contacting state representatives and the U.S. State Department to ask them to offer their assistance in getting Addison released.
On Dec. 8, the Help Stacey Facebook page shared an update on her situation from her mother. After months of waiting, the case has been assigned a new prosecutor, and Addison, her lawyer and members of the U.S. Embassy will meet for questioning about the crime, Kero writes. While waiting in prison, Addison has been reading, writing and studying Indonesian so she can communicate better.
However, she has struggled with health issues and weight loss, her mother reveals. Addison has been treated at a local clinic for a recurring abscess and intestinal problems.
The confirmation of U.S. Ambassador Karen Stanton to Timor-Leste in November was an encouraging development. Kero writes that she received a call from Stanton after she met with Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden regarding Addison's situation, and Stanton said Addison would be her top priority as she assumes her post.