'I can't take any more,' says Canadian jailed in Mexico
An Ontario woman who has languished in a Mexican jail for more than two years told CBC News on Wednesday that her endless imprisonment has her on the verge of collapse.
Brenda Martin, speaking through tears in an interview inside the jail near the city of Guadalajara, said she feels sick and fears she's having a nervous breakdown.
"I'm hoping that there will be some compassion somewhere to know that I've served this time, sufficient time, and they will let me go," she said, sobbing loudly as she dabbed her eyes with tissue. "I can't take any more."
Martin, who's from Trenton, has been in jail since February 2006, when she was charged with money laundering and conspiracy.
Authorities said she was part of a multimillion-dollar internet fraud scheme run by her boss, Alyn Richard Waage of Alberta. He hired Martin as a chef in 2001 and she worked for him for 10 months in the city of Puerto Vallarta.
"I've been treated like I'm the mastermind of this whole business," Martin, 51, said. "I'm a nobody really, I was the chef, I didn't work in the office."
Even Waage has confirmed Martin's story. He gave a sworn affidavit affirming that Martin had no knowledge of his operations. He pleaded guilty in 2005 to fraud and is serving a 10-year sentence in a U.S. jail.
The Canadian government, after being criticized for doing too little for Martin, intervened in her case Tuesday. Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier called his Mexican counterpart to ask that the woman's case be resolved as soon as possible, while his office has reportedly sent a diplomatic note to Mexican authorities.
But Martin's good friend back in Canada fears the note won't be enough to convince Mexico to let Martin go.
"My concern is that the diplomatic note may be a little limp," Debra Tieleman said in Cambridge, Ont.
"I think at this point in time, we need to take a very strong stand with Mexico. We have to stand up and say, 'We're not going to allow a Canadian to be treated this way'."
Former PM takes up Martin's case
Former prime minister Paul Martin got involved in Martin's case this week, visiting her on Wednesday while in Mexico for a conference on global governance reform.
"Mr. Martin felt that it was important to see her, to comfort her, to do anything he could to help keep her spirits up during this terrible ordeal," the former prime minister's spokesman, Jim Pimblett, said in an e-mail to CBCNews.ca.
"He told her that Canadians are worried about her and thinking about her."
The former prime minister, who is of no relation to Martin, was accompanied on the journey with Canadian consul general Robin Dubeau. The two men reported that Martin seemed distraught and appeared to have lost a great deal of weight.
Following the 45-minute visit, the former prime minister met with the director of the prison where he expressed concern about Martin's health and physical environment. The former prime minister also raised the issue with senior Mexican government officials Tuesday, including the vice-minister of foreign affairs, Pimblett said.
Martin is under 24-hour suicide watch after threatening to kill herself if the Mexican government does not release her. She has been heavily sedated during parts of her incarceration.
An attempt to have charges against Martin dropped based on a constitutional challenge has been dismissed by a Mexican Federal Court. Her lawyer said Tuesday they are still deciding whether to appeal the decision.
If convicted of the charges against her, Martin could face 15 more years in a Mexican prison, her lawyer said.