Oregon mother calls daughter's release from Timor-Leste prison a Christmas present

PORTLAND, Oregon (Reuters) - The mother of an Oregon woman newly freed from two months of imprisonment in Timor-Leste said on Friday that news of her daughter's release was a "fantastic Christmas present," but it remained uncertain how soon she could return to the United States.

Ms Bernadette Kero, 64, of Klamath Falls, Oregon, said she last spoke to her daughter, Dr Stacey Addison, two nights earlier, just after she was let out of prison in Dili, the capital of the South-east Asian country.

As of Friday, Ms Kero said, her daughter was still waiting for the Timor-Leste government to return her passport so she could leave the country. "I just want it over with," the mother told Reuters by telephone. "I'm very relieved that she's out of prison," Ms Kero added, calling her daughter's release a "fantastic Christmas present."

Dr Addison, 41, a veterinarian from Portland, was visiting Timor-Leste as part of a round-the-world trip when she was detained in early September on a drug charge. After being held for five days, she was conditionally released without her passport, then arrested again in late October when she appeared in a Timor-Leste court to retrieve her passport and was sent to prison, according to the United States State Department.

Following behind-the-scenes diplomatic efforts to secure her freedom, Dr Addison was released on Christmas Day. She has been staying since then as a guest at the home of former Timor-Leste President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta, her mother said.

Dr Addison has insisted she was wrongly accused. According to an account of her ordeal posted online by friends, she was first taken into custody when the police arrested a man who was sharing a cab ride with her after he stopped to pick up a package of illegal drugs.

When rearrested nearly two months later, she was told the prosecutor had appealed to have her conditional release from jail rescinded, according to the account.

Her release from prison was announced by the State Department on Thursday, and a department spokesman said on Friday she had nothing more to add.

Dr Addison was quoted by CNN on Thursday as telling reporters that she planned to go home to Oregon as soon as she regained her papers, or her mother would never forgive her.

To that, Ms Kero said on Friday: "She better come straight home... I want to see her."