Mexican court to determine Ont. woman's fate this week

A Canadian woman imprisoned in Mexico will attend a crucial hearing Monday when a judge could rule either to free her or send her back to jail for up to 15 years.

A Canadian woman imprisoned in Mexico will attend a crucial hearing Monday when a judge could rule either to free her or send her back to jail for up to 15 years.

Brenda Martin, 51, from Trenton, Ont., has been in a Guadalajara prison since February 2006 for allegedly laundering money and helping Alyn Richard Waage of Edmonton defraud 15,000 victims of $60 million US through an internet investment scam called Tri-West Investment Club.

Martin insists she is innocent. She said she had only worked as a chef in Mexico for Waage, who is now serving a 10-year jail sentence in a U.S. prison. He has testified that she was unaware of his fraudulent activities.

In an interview with the CBC’s Latin America correspondent, Connie Watson, Martin said she can't believe she has spent so much time in prison.

"Based on the fact that I'm a nobody, really, I'm a nobody," Martin said, "I'm hoping that there will be some compassion somewhere to know that I have served this time, sufficient time, and they will let me go."

Martin, who friends say is depressed and has been on 24-hour suicide watch in Puente Grande women's prison, will argue her case with the help of her Toronto lawyer, Guillermo Cruz Rico, at a final hearing Monday before the judge, who has said he will try to issue a ruling by April 18.

Martin said she has been told by the judge he is working very hard to expedite her verdict, and the case is considered a very delicate matter.

Speaking to CBC news from Guadalajara, Cruz Rico said his client was aprehensive about the hearing, because of the possibility that she could be sentenced to more jail time.

"She's in pretty bad shape," Cruz Rico said, "She is nervous."

Observers have said both Canadian and Mexican leaders want the issue resolved by the time Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Felipe Calderon meet with U.S. President George W. Bush on April 20 for the People's Summit in New Orleans.

If the judge rules her not guilty, Martin will be released from prison immediately, Rico told CBC News. If she is found guilty, she could be sentenced to between five and 15 years for the offences, he said.

Either way, Martin will likely return to Canada, since her friends have said she will file paperwork requesting a transfer to a Canadian jail rather than appeal a guilty verdict.