Stacey AddisonAfter backpacking solo around the world, Stacey Addison hoped to be back home in Portland to celebrate her 41st birthday on November 5.

Instead, Addison remained imprisoned in the small Southeast Asian country of Timor-Leste. Now detained for weeks with no criminal charges, the Oregon woman shares a cell with two other women.

“Never in a million years would I have thought that she’d be spending her birthday today in a prison,” Addison’s mother, Bernadette Kero, told CNN on Wednesday, November 5. “It’s been a nightmare. We just want her to be able to come home.”

The nightmare began in September, when Addison shared a taxi with a local – a common practice in the country. The taxi driver stopped so the local man could pick up a package.

Unknown to Addison, this package contained 1.6 kilos of methamphetamine.

Police stopped the taxi and arrested everyone inside, including the surprised Addison. She had been sitting in the backseat scanning her Lonely Planet guidebook for hostel recommendations, completely unaware of the illegal proceedings of her fellow passenger.

Officials held Addison four nights in a detention center and confiscated her passport. Finally, the other passenger admitted neither Addison nor the driver were involved.

“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.”

Timor-LesteAddison was initially released, only to be detained days later – this time in a prison outside the capital of Timor-Leste. Her long blond hair was cut short to follow prison protocol, and she is only allowed visitors twice a week.

Addison’s lawyer, Paul Remedios, told Kero that Addison’s “human rights were violated. There is a case of miscarriage of justice in the making.”

After studying veterinary medicine at the University of California Davis, Addison worked as a veterinarian for more than 12 years. Most recently, she worked at the Banfield Animal Hospital on Northeast 82nd Avenue in Portland.

Kero frequently updates the PleaseHelpStacey Facebook page concerning her daughter’s conditions and any progress in court proceedings. She encourages supporters to contact their Senators and Representatives on Addison’s behalf.

Stacey Addison“Stacey, if only I could talk to you,” Kero shared on the Facebook page. “You are on my mind every second of the day. It breaks my heart to think of you spending your birthday in prison. My only wish is for you to be free. You don’t deserve any of this.”

According to a senator spokesman, Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden is “working with the State Department and her family to get this resolved as quickly as possible.” Sen. Jeff Merkley is also working on the case.

Meanwhile, Addison is thankful for the support of the U.S. Embassy in Timor-Leste – whose staff visits regularly and recently brought her a birthday cake.

“I am trying to keep busy and keep the anxiety at bay, but the uncertainty is always there in the back of [my] mind – gnawing away at any attempt at peace of mind,” Addison wrote on October 19. “This isn’t how I had imagined I would be spending my time during the trip of a lifetime. I hope it is all over soon.”

When not writing, Sierra can be found conducting experiments in the chemistry lab or whipping up delectable creations in her kitchen. With a passion for storytelling, Sierra puts her natural curiosity to use investigating enlightening angles for news and events here at The Oregon Optimist.