US mom of 7 fights drug smuggling claim

2013-05-29 17:28

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Phoenix — A mother of seven from Arizona is jailed in Mexico on allegations that she tried to smuggle nearly 5.4kg of marijuana into the US on a passenger bus — claims her family members say are false.

A court hearing was held on Tuesday in Nogales, Sonora, for 42-year-old Yanira Maldonado of the Phoenix suburb of Goodyear.

She and her husband said they were returning from the funeral of her aunt last Wednesday when the bus they were on was stopped at a military checkpoint about 145km from the US-Mexico border.

Maldonado was arrested after soldiers inspected the bus and reported finding the marijuana underneath her seat, according to a spokesperson for the army in the northern state of Sonora.

Gary Maldonado claims his wife was framed and says authorities originally demanded $5 000 for her release.

The Mexican Embassy in Washington, DC, said in a statement on Tuesday that Yanira Maldonado's "rights to a defence counsel and due process are being observed". The embassy didn't respond to allegations she was framed.

Military officers to testify

Maldonado is a naturalised US citizen who was born in Mexico, her family said.

She was taken to a state prison in Nogales after being turned over to federal prosecutors, said the army spokesperson Denisse Coronado. A federal judge will decide whether Maldonado should face trial, Coronado said.

Gary Maldonado's brother-in-law Brandon Klippel said military officers from the checkpoint were expected to testify at another court hearing on Wednesday.

"I know there's people out there saying or asking, 'Did she really do it? Are you sure?' And you know, it hurts to see that," Anna Sota, Maldonado's 21-year-old daughter, told Phoenix TV station KPHO. "If you would've known my mom, if you've met her, you would know she had nothing to do with it."

Patrick Ventrell, acting deputy spokesperson for the US State Department in Mexico, confirmed Maldonado's arrest but referred all questions to her attorney and Mexican authorities.

Republican Senator Jeff Flake is "personally monitoring the situation, and he has had multiple conversations with the deputy Mexican ambassador", his office said in a statement.

Read more on:    us  |  mexico

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