A woman was sentenced to death in Malaysia by hanging after an appeals court on Thursday overturned an acquittal by a lower court. Australian native Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto was arrested at Kuala Lumpur's international airport in Malaysia in 2014 after sending her drug-laden bags through airport security. Exposto was exonerated of the crime by the High Court last December on the grounds she wasn't aware of the 1.5 kilograms of methamphetamine in her bag but the prosecution appealed.
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Exposto is a 54-year-old mother of four from Syndey and was traveling from Shanghai to Melbourne when she was detained in Malaysia. The Australian native said she went to Shanghai to meet a U.S. serviceman who she met online when she was asked to carry a bag full of clothes. She maintains that she was not aware the bag contained drugs. The judge called Exposto "naive" but also said her "feelings of love had overcome everything."
Tania Scivetti, the attorney representing Exposto, said an appeals court "found there was merit" in the prosecution's appeal. "It's disappointing as there was clear evidence that she was the victim of an Internet romance scam. She was a drug mule," Scivetti said as she explained they have appealed to Malaysia's top court. The country has a mandatory death sentence for anyone found guilty of carrying more than 50 grams of a banned drug.
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Exposto was arrested by immigration authorities immediately after winning her appeal because her visa had expired. After the prosecutor appealed the appeal, she remained in jail due to an inability to post bail. Australian Foreign Minister Julia Bishop said, "Australia opposes the death penalty in all circumstances for all people." Australia and Malaysia have had poor diplomatic relations since 1986 when Malaysia hung two Australians were trafficking heroin in what Australian Prime Minister called a "barbaric act".
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