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Australian Woman Acquitted of Drug Trafficking Charges in Malaysia

Australian Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, center, is escorted by a police officer during a court hearing at Shah Alam High Court in Shah Alam, Malaysia, Dec. 27, 2017.

An Australian woman has been acquitted by a Malaysian court of charges of illicit drug trafficking.

Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto was arrested three years ago this month at Kuala Lumpur's International Airport after police found more than one kilogram of methamphetamine in her backpack. Lawyers for Exposto, a 54-year-old mother of three from Sydney, say she was tricked into carrying the bag by an online boyfriend who claimed to be a U.S. soldier serving in Afghanistan.

Judge Ghazali Cha agreed with the defense's arguments when he handed down his ruling Wednesday.

Exposto faced a mandatory death sentence for possessing more than 50 grams of a prohibited drug if she had been convicted.

Three Australians have been hanged for drug offenses in Malaysia since 1986.