Ukrainian mum locked up in Malaysian prison has to wait to reunite with baby

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The Penang high court has freed a 23-year-old Ukrainian woman of allegedly trafficking in 1.54kg of cocaine at the Penang International Airport almost two years ago.

GEORGE TOWN (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - She gave birth to a baby girl while in jail but did not want the newborn with her.

Lopatkina Klavdiia, 23, pleaded with her mother to take the baby back to Ukraine while she was locked up in the Seberang Prai Prison in Penang, Malaysia.

Now, with the child one year and four months old, Klavdiia is finally looking at being reunited with her daughter. She was acquitted by the Penang High Court on Friday (Dec 15) of a charge of trafficking in 1.54kg of cocaine at Penang International Airport in 2015.

She was a month pregnant when police caught her arriving at the airport with two plastic bags of cocaine in colourful wrappers inside four chocolate tins, on Dec 31, 2015.

Klavdiia ran from the second floor courtroom with an official from the Ukranian embassy immediately after being acquitted. But she only got as far as the ground floor.

A group of immigration officers surrounded them because her visa had expired while she was waiting for her trial.

Her lawyer Low Huey Theng said the embassy could issue a special travel pass for her to return to Ukraine, provided the prosecution does not file an appeal within 14 days and apply for her to be remanded until the disposal of their appeal.

"When foreigners are acquitted of capital offences, the prosecution will frequently appeal," she added.

Chief defence counsel Datuk N. Sivananthan said Klavdiia gave birth in Seberang Jaya Hospital and her baby spent about a month with her in prison before Klavdiia's mother came to the country.

Sivananthan said Klavdiia's family was not well-off, so they raised funds from the public in Ukraine for her mother to afford the trip to Malaysia to take the baby home last September.

"She felt prison was not the best environment for her baby and was relieved when her mother was able to come," he added.

Low said they had advised her that it was possible for her to raise her baby in a Malaysian prison and that the Government would ensure better living conditions for mother and child.

"She would even have been allowed to bring her baby with her when she attended her hearings. Nobody will separate her from her child. But she wanted very much for her baby to be in Ukraine instead of being in prison with her," Low said.

Klavdiia was charged with drug trafficking under Section 39B(1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952, a non-bailable offence punishable by death under Section 39B(2) of the same act.

Yesterday, Judicial Commissioner Datuk Abdul Wahab freed her without calling for her defence after ruling that the prosecution failed to prove a prima facie case.

He said there were discrepancies which cast doubts on the prosecution's case.

"The chemist testified orally in court that the wrappings (of the cocaine) were plastic but it contradicted with the chemist report which stated it was paper," he said.

He added that there were serious doubts in identifying the drugs due to differing accounts by the investigating and arresting officers and that the investigating officer did not process the case thoroughly.

DPP Noor Azrul Abdul Rahman was the prosecutor in charge.

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