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Brenda Martin's lawyer optimistic she will be released but Canadian ‘terrified'

GUADALAJARA, Mexico - Brenda Martin's lawyer and childhood friend are optimistic she will be released from a Mexican prison Tuesday, but say the jailed Canadian is terrified that a Mexican judge's decision may not go her way.


GUADALAJARA, Mexico - Brenda Martin's lawyer and childhood friend are optimistic she will be released from a Mexican prison Tuesday, but say the jailed Canadian is terrified that a Mexican judge's decision may not go her way.

"I think it's going to be positive," said Debra Tieleman, her childhood friend and advocate.

"The judge is an educated and reasonable man and having read the case, there's no way a reasonable person would find her guilty."

Tieleman and Martin's lawyer Guillermo Cruz say the former Trenton, Ont., resident however, is anxious and scared.

"This is one of the hardest situations someone can be placed in in life, because she'll find out tomorrow if she'll have to spend time in jail or if she's going to be able to go to Canada, and go home," Cruz said.

Martin, he said, is suffering deeply, and was only able to attend the previous hearings because she was on medication and expressed doubt that she would be up to being present for Tuesday's decision.

"Right now, I don't think that she could have done it," Cruz said.

He said he didn't even want to even consider what it would mean for Martin if she was found guilty, saying only that "it would be a huge hit against her."

Tieleman said she spent all day at the prison with Martin, who did nothing but cry and hold her hand.

"She's terrified, she doesn't really believe that Mexico's ever going to let her go," Tieleman said.

"She knows Mexico's in control and she's very scared."

Martin is expecting a ruling in her case Tuesday afternoon after spending two years in a Mexican jail since being arrested in connection with an Internet fraud scheme run by her former boss.

She has consistently denied having any knowledge of the scam, in which Alyn Waage bilked 15,000 investors out of nearly US$60 million. Waage is serving a 10-year sentence in a U.S. jail.

If found not guilty, Martin could be freed within hours and be back in Canada by Thursday. If convicted, she faces five to 15 years in prison and is expected to transfer to Canada - a procedure her lawyer said would likely be expedited.

Tieleman said Martin wouldn't appeal the verdict because that would mean waiting for the outcome in Mexico.

Mexican national security officials say she could be deported immediately if freed, since she had worked in the country illegally.

But Cruz said that won't happen.

"If Brenda is found not guilty, Brenda will be able to leave Mexico without following that procedure," he said.

Martin will not be present to hear the judge read his decision, and is expected to remain in the prison, just down the street from the courthouse, and be told of the judgment around the same time.

Guards at the prison, armed with pistols and automatic rifles, were well aware of their Canadian inmate and the international stir her case has caused.

Media access to Martin, they said, has been strictly regulated because of how "politicized" the case has become.

A Mexican official at the prosecution's office defended the delays in the case, saying most were caused by defence requests as well as evidence entered by both sides, and requests for translation by Martin.

"The judge has now read through all the evidence and will be ready to announce his decision," the official said.

The Puente Grande women's prison that has been Martin's home for the last two years is part of a prison and court complex about an hour from Guadalajara. Checkpoints and barbed wire give way to dirt roads, concrete government building and prison watch towers.

The women's prison is smaller than a man's penitentiary along the same road, but all the buildings are frequented by a steady stream of friends, relatives and children visiting inmates with bags of food, toilet paper, water and other necessities.

Martin worked as a chef for Waage in Puerto Vallarta but was fired in 2001 because of a disagreement about his mother. She was paid $26,000 in severance and invested part of that money into Waage's business.

She said she didn't know his business was fraudulent - a fact Waage backed up in a sworn statement.

But Mexican prosecutors allege that Martin knowingly accepted illegal funds.

Martin's friends and family fear for her mental and physical well-being. They have severely criticized the Canadian government for not doing more to help her.

She has attempted to commit suicide three times while in prison and lost more than 13 kilograms in weight.

Still, Martin has been allowed to make weekly telephone calls to her mother and participated in a prison beauty pageant.

Tieleman defended the pageant Monday, saying Martin was encouraged to take part because it would be a distraction and avoid causing problems with fellow inmates.

"She lives in prison, she does what they want her to do."

 
 
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