Australian woman sentenced to death in Malaysia over drugs

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An Australian woman has been sentenced to death by hanging after a Malaysian court overturned an earlier acquittal of drug smuggling charges.

Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto has been sentenced to death via hanging after allegeldy trying to move almost 1.1 kilos of crystal meth across the Malaysian border into Melbourne.

On December 27 previous year Exposto was acquitted of drug trafficking but faced a prosecution appeal against the acquittal on charges of trafficking 1.5kg of methamphetamine into Malaysia.

The court has previously heard Ms Exposto fell victim to an internet romance scam and that she was tricked into believing she was in Shanghai to lodge documents for her online boyfriend's retirement from service in the USA army.

After three years in prison, she was found not guilty of drug trafficking in December 2017, with the court accepting her argument that she had been unaware of the presence of drugs in her luggage.

Under the Dangerous Drugs Act, anyone caught with at least 50g of crystal meth is considered a trafficker and is subject to the death penalty.

According to SBS, Exposto's lawyers said she had gone to Shanghai to file documents in relation to her boyfriend's retirement from service in the U.S. army.

The arrest of Exposto, a former social worker in East Timor, shocked her family and friends in Sydney, who said she was a devoted and loving mother and grandmother.

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When she arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport to change flights, she mistakenly went through immigration as she was unfamiliar with the airport.

She was acquitted of the death sentence in December, according to 9 News. She told the court that she had agreed to take the backpack from the stranger because she was told it carried her online boyfriend's clothes.

The judge had called her "naive", but added that her "feelings of love.[had] overcome everything".

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

In 1986, Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers were hanged after being found guilty of trafficking heroin. When Westerners are caught by the laws, officials in the region say, they can not expect a double standard to apply.

Exposto had been released on bail in January in Malaysia after avoiding the death penalty late past year.

Yesterday Exposto's lawyer, Shafee Abdullah, told her it was a temporary setback and "you will win and you will walk away" following the further appeal.

In a statement yesterday Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said "Australia opposes the death penalty in all circumstances for all people" and Exposto would continue to receive full Australian consular assistance.

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