Aussie grandma sentenced to death for drugs to know fate on Tuesday

Australian Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto at an earlier court appearance. (Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, the Australian grandmother sentenced to death last year for trafficking in drugs, will know next week if she escapes the gallows.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH), the 56-year-old’s final appeal will be heard by the Federal Court next Tuesday.

Exposto was arrested in December 2014 at the Kuala Lumpur airport with 1.1kg of crystal methamphetamine stitched into the lining of a bag given to her by a man in Shanghai.

She maintains she did not know about the hidden stash of “ice”.

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 US serviceman.

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

In December 2017, the High Court in Shah Alam found her not guilty. The following year, the Court of Appeal overturned the ruling.

The SMH report said: “Her lawyer said he was confident Exposto, from Cabramatta West, would receive a full acquittal, after describing the guilty verdict as ‘perverse’.”

Exposto is represented by Muhammad Shafee Abdullah.

SMH also reported that diplomats were closely watching the trial, while the Australian government had provided consular assistance.

The daily reported that Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said earlier promises to entirely abolish the death penalty had unfortunately been dropped.

“No one should face the death sentence for a drugs-related offence.

“Malaysia’s attorney-general should work with the courts to ensure any death penalty verdict against her is commuted to a prison term if she is determined to be guilty of the charges against her,” he was quoted by the daily as saying.

Two Australians were hanged in Malaysia in 1986 for heroin trafficking – the first Westerners to be executed in the country – in a case that strained relations between the two countries.