May 31, 2013
Mexico Releases US Woman Held on Drug Charges
Mexican authorities have released a U.S. mother of seven who was being held on drug trafficking charges, in a case that had attracted global headlines and threatened to upset U.S.-Mexico relations.
Yanira Maldonado was greeted by her family and other well-wishers as she walked free late Thursday out of a prison in the Mexican border town of Nogales, where she had been held for nine days.
The Mexican military had jailed her after more than five kilograms of marijuana were found stashed under her seat in a passenger bus headed for the southwestern U.S. state of Arizona.
Charges against her were dropped after a review of security tape footage at the bus station appeared to show her and her husband boarding the vehicle with only blankets, water bottles and her purse.
Maldonado is a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Mexico. She and her husband Gary said they were visiting Mexico to attend a relative's funeral.
She has repeatedly pleaded her innocence during television interviews from the prison, saying she is a devout Mormon who is not involved in the illegal drug trade. Media outlets have reported that court records suggest there have been no prior drug charges against her.
Drug traffickers in Mexico have in the past tried to smuggle their goods into the U.S. using passenger buses.
The Maldonado family believes they were framed. They say they were originally told they could bribe the judge with $5,000 in order to release the charges, but the deal fell through.
The Maldonado's case had drawn the attention of several Arizona politicians and U.S. officials who had been pushing for Maldonado's release.