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Arizona Mother Accused Of Drug Smuggling Freed From Mexican Prison

posted 31 May 2013, 04:20 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 31 May 2013, 04:21 ]

Arizona mother walks free from Mexican prison after being cleared of drug smuggling

NOGALESSONORAMEXICO (MAY 30, 2013) (REUTERS) -  An Arizona mother of seven jailed in Mexico after marijuana was found under her bus seat was released on Thursday (May 30) after video evidence showed her boarding the vehicle without the drugs, her attorney said.

Yanira Maldonado, a Mormon, walked free shortly before midnight from a prison in the Mexican border city of Nogales, where she had been held since her arrest on May 22.

"I'm very grateful that I'm free, for my family, my children and special thanks to my lawyer, the consul from Nogales, in the U.S, NogalesArizona, that they were there to help me," Maldonado said on her release.

Maldonado was arrested when soldiers searched a bus on which she was traveling with her husband Gary, and found 12 pounds (5 kilograms) of marijuana under her seat.

Her attorney Jose Benitez Paz said a security video from the bus terminal in Los Mochis in northwest Sinaloa state, where the couple boarded the bus, showed Maldonado carrying only two blankets, water bottles and her purse.

"I went to the truth and the evidence weakened the accusations and, finally, they had to free her," Benitez Paz said. Adding that a judge on Thursday declined to charge Maldonado and ordered her released. She planned to return to the United States immediately, the attorney said.

Maldonado, who was born in Mexico and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, traveled toMexico with her husband to attend a relative's funeral. The couple opted to take a bus back to Arizona as they believed it was safer than traveling by car.

The bus was pulled over at a military checkpoint about 80 miles (130 kms) south of the Arizona border, Benitez Paz said.

Maldonado protested her innocence in television interviews from the Nogalesprison where she was held since last week.

The incident drew attention to the world of drug traffickers who grow marijuana in the rugged heartlands of northwest Mexico and transport it across the Arizonaborder to satisfy strong demand from U.S. consumers.