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Mexican official defends Martin decision, says evidence shows she's guilty.

GUADALAJARA, Mexico - The evidence against Brenda Martin clearly shows she is guilty and, despite her supporters' complaints, the jailed Canadian was given a fair trial, a Mexican official said Wednesday.


GUADALAJARA, Mexico - The evidence against Brenda Martin clearly shows she is guilty and, despite her supporters' complaints, the jailed Canadian was given a fair trial, a Mexican official said Wednesday.

"The facts and the evidence that the decision was based on show clearly that she is guilty," said Heriberto Estrada, a government lawyer with Judge Luis Nunez's office.

Estrada, who on Tuesday read the decision sentencing Martin to five years in prison, defended the ruling after severe criticism from the Canadian woman's family and supporters.

Martin's mother accused Mexican officials of finding her guilty to "save face" and because she "never paid any bribes to the Mexican judges."

Her childhood friend Debra Tieleman, who had expected Martin to be acquitted in connection with an Internet fraud scam run by her former boss, decried the verdict as "Mexican justice."

But Estrada said Martin was given due process, noting that while the system in Mexico is different from what Canadians are used to, it works and includes provisions for appeal.

"People can say what they want but it has nothing to do with the sentence," he said. "It's the higher courts that would make any ultimate judgement."

Martin's lawyer Guillermo Cruz had asked the Mexican courts earlier in the process to dismiss the charges on constitutional grounds, saying her rights were violated because she was never provided with an interpreter and didn't understand the case against her.

That challenge was dismissed, Estrada said.

Martin's people "have to do what they can to get attention for her cause and to get support, but the proof is there; she's had translators," he said.

"We respect people's constitutional rights in Mexico, whether they are Mexicans, indigenous peoples or foreigners."

Martin, 51, formerly of Trenton, Ont., has been in jail for two years in connection with the scheme run by her former boss. She has consistently maintained she did not know it was a scam.

Cruz was cautious not to criticize the Mexican legal process, saying he "can't generalize a system because of one decision or one unfortunate case."

"I still have faith in that the Mexican system can work, although it needs some changes," Cruz said.

"Brenda had the misfortune of dealing, at certain points, with certain officials who were not the best, but this is one case ... and it's a judge's decision and that of an institution that still deserves respect."

Cruz said he still believed Martin wasn't guilty but wouldn't appeal the verdict because his client had chosen instead to be transferred to Canada.

He hasn't seen Martin since Canadian officials visited her with transfer papers Tuesday, but has been told she's still "very delicate."

"She's been very affected by the news so I haven't been able to speak with her; she's very fragile right now," he said.

Guards at the prison in Puente Grande, near Guadalajara, declined on comment on her state and said reporters weren't allowed to visit her.

Canadian officials are working to expedite a transfer, but it's unclear how long it will take for Martin to return to Canada.

Under Mexican law, a convicted prisoner must wait out a five-day appeal period before the transfer process can begin.

But Estrada said Wednesday that both Martin and the prosecutors have signed documents accepting the sentence, which means there will be no appeal and the five-day waiting period can be waived.

The transfer, he said, is now in the hands of the Canadian and Mexican governments.

"For us the case is closed once the sentence is signed and accepted," Estrada said.

Conservative sources said MP Jason Kenney, secretary of state for multiculturalism, will travel to Mexico later this week to discuss a prisoner transfer with Mexican officials.

Kenney told The Canadian Press in an interview Tuesday that Martin's prisoner transfer could take between six and nine months, although the government would try to speed up the process.

"I'm not going to put timelines on this particular case," he said. "We certainly intend to expedite any application she makes as quickly as possible to get her back to Canada ex post facto if she decides to come back."

James Morton of the Toronto law firm Steinberg Morton Hope and Israel, who has been following the case, said it could be a matter of weeks before Martin returns to Canada, and she could be released on parole shortly afterward.

But he's unsure if Martin would qualify for the so-called "two-for-one" rule that gives double credit for time served while an accused is awaiting trial.

"It's not going to be as fast as her supporters would like it to be," Morton said.

"We're looking at a period of a few weeks in Mexico and, certainly, a few weeks in Canada before she would be released."

Morton expects Martin to be taken to the prison for women in Kingston, Ont., once she arrives in Canada, and then apply for parole, which will likely also be fast-tracked.

 
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