An Aussie grandma facing the death penalty in Malaysia could escape the noose as the country moves to abolish the death penalty altogether.
Sydney woman Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, 54, was sentenced to death by hanging earlier this year after being caught trafficking 1.5kilograms of crystal methamphetamine – something she claims she was duped into by an online boyfriend.
Now however, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s government has announced plans to abolish the death penalty – with the matter to be tabled in parliament next week.
“All death penalty will be abolished. Full stop,” the country’s minister of law, Liew Vui Keong, told reporters, according to the Malay Mail.
Once passed, the legislation would mean 1200 lives will be spared, including Exposto’s, for crimes including murder, drug trafficking, treason, kidnapping and acts of terror.
An appeal court sentenced the mother-of-four to death earlier this year after overturning an earlier acquittal. She has maintained she was set up throughout, after the drugs were found stitched into the lining of her bag when she arrived in Kuala Lumpur in 2014.
“That will have a very very positive effect on Maria’s case, it means she won’t face the death penalty,” Exposto’s lawyer, Farhan Shafee, told AAP.
“We are still waiting for it to be tabled… Of course we are very, very happy to read the news and we welcome this decision by the cabinet. This means Malaysia will conform with international standards, which we have always been advocating.”
Amnesty International has also welcomed the news, with spokesman Kumi Naidoo saying in a statement: “There is no time to waste – the death penalty should have been consigned to the history books long ago.”
While Malaysia is following most of the rest of the world when it comes to capital punishment, many Asian countries such as China, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam still impose it.
According to the Mail Online, a court previously heard that Exposto was caught up in an internet romance scam by ‘a US serviceman’ around the time of the crime. She claimed at the time she was in Shanghai to lodge documents for his retirement from service.
It’s there she claimed in court she received a bag from his ‘friends’ she thought contained the papers and clothes – but actually had the drugs hidden inside the lining.
“He made me feel loved, he made me feel wanted,” she previously told the court. “[He] would sing to me a few times a day and send love poems as well.”