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Trial set for Indigenous community leader in Japanese prison for "love scam" drug haul

Dechlan Brennan -

The trial date in Japan for a respected Western Australian Indigenous leader has been set, but the Perth grandmother will remain in prison for at least another four months.

Ballardong Njaki-Njaki woman Donna Nelson, the former chair of Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service, was arrested in January 2023, allegedly with two kilograms of methamphetamine in her suitcase. She had been involved in what her family called two years of grooming by a "love scammer".

It's been reported the trial has been set to last two weeks, likely in the last week of June.

The family of Ms Nelson told WA Today she was buoyed by the news a trial date had been set.

"We would like everyone to know that our Mum is in good health and good spirits." they said.

Ms Nelson was arrested at Narita International Airport, allegedly with methamphetamine in a tampered suitcase. WA Today reported her lawyers said one side of the suitcase was "fitted with a false outer lining to create a hidden cavity in which around two kilograms of methamphetamine was found".

It was previously reported an indictment filed to the Chiba prefecture district court alleged Ms Nelson took a suitcase containing approximately 1.9 kilograms of stimulants onboard a plane in Laos on January 3 2023, before transiting through Vietnam on route to Japan.

Reports say Ms Nelson's lawyers will argue she was tricked into taking the suitcase from Laos to Japan by a Nigerian man - known as "Kelly"- who she had met two years earlier through an online dating site called AfroIntroductions.

Ms Nelson's daughters previously said their mother was told by the Nigerian man that he owned a fashion brand and sent her a photo of what he claimed was his Japanese residency card. He then purchased her business class flights to Japan, flying via Singapore, Laos and Vietnam.

The 57-year-old is confined to her cell for more than 23 hours a day, and it has been reported she is only allowed to shower every three days, passing the time by reading the Bible.

The United States Embassy in Japan states: "Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs, including marijuana and synthetic drugs, are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and fines."


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