Australian grandmother sentenced to death by hanging for drug smuggling

Australian grandmother sentenced to death by hanging for drug smuggling

Australian grandmother sentenced to death by hanging for drug smuggling

A Malaysian court on Thursday sentenced to death by hanging an Australian mother of three, for trafficking more than a kilogramme of crystal methamphetamine into the Southeast Asian nation, but her lawyer said she was appealing.

Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, a 54-year-old Sydney resident, was in transit at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in 2014 when she was caught with a backpack filled with the drugs.

But prosecutors indicated they wanted to appeal the acquittal, meaning that Exposto couldn't return home to Sydney and to her three grandchildren, as there was a still a chance she could face the death sentence, AFP reported in December.

She said she had been fooled into carrying the bag after travelling to China to see someone she met online called "Captain Daniel Smith", who had claimed to be a U.S. serviceman. Ms Exposto testified a friend of Mr "Smith" asked her to take the black backpack to Melbourne from Shanghai as a last minute request at the airport.

The ruling comes despite changes to Malaysian law a year ago which made the death penalty no longer mandatory for drug mules.

Judge wishes her good luck as she has a final round of appeal in the Federal Court.

She said Ms Exposto clearly fit the profile of a scam victim and was "quite naive". "It's obvious I'm innocent".

Malaysian lawmakers have voted to amend legislation so that capital punishment is no longer mandatory in drug-trafficking cases.

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Malaysia, like other countries in Southeast Asia, imposes harsh penalties for drug offences.

They were the first Westerners to be executed under the country's renowned anti-drug laws which were introduced in 1983.

Ms Exposto's lawyer Shafee Abdullah told her client it was a temporary setback, vowing Exposto would win the appeal, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Exposto was acquitted of the crime in December 2017 when the judge ruled she had been groomed for two years by the man, with whom she had fallen in love, and been scammed into carrying the rucksack, which had been given to her in Shanghai.

"I thought there was an overwhelming case for the defence".

There have been previous acquittals, too: In 2013, Australian Dominic Bird escaped the death penalty after he was accused of possessing 167 grams of crystal meth.

Exposto maintains she did not know about the hidden stash of "ice".

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will continue to provide full consular assistance, she said.

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