The life sentence of a South African woman who was convicted of drug trafficking in Thailand last year has been reduced to 33 years.
Ashley Oosthuizen, 23, was arrested for drug dealing on Oct. 8, 2020, after she accepted a package that contained ecstasy from a delivery man at the restaurant Hot in the Biscuit, where she worked as a manager.
Thai authorities reportedly knew the contents of the package before Oosthuizen signed for it. It was found to contain over 260 grams of MDMA. Authorities authorized for the package to reach its intended location to make the arrest.
Oosthuizen has maintained her innocence, claiming that she was unaware of the contents of the package. At the time of the incident, she was dating an American man named Tristan Nettles.
Nettles reportedly claimed responsibility for the drug operation. He said he was an “international dark web drug dealer” and that Oosthuizen was not involved.
He previously worked as a teacher in Koh Samui, where he met Oosthuizen. Nettles admitted to shipping drugs into the school for years. When Oosthuizen was laid off from her job as a teacher, Nettles offered her work as the manager at a restaurant.
A website that fights for the release of Oosthuizen claims that Nettles used the restaurant to import drugs after his packages were discovered at the school he previously worked at. He had been shipping drugs to the restaurant since September 2020, and he asked the help of his friend Dave Rensburg to pick up the packages, the website claims.
While Oosthuizen was arrested for the package, Nettles was never prosecuted as he fled Thailand before the arrest.
Oosthuizen was initially sentenced to death before it was reduced to a life sentence in Nakhon Si Thammarat Central Prison. Oosthuizen’s family’s plea to have her extradited back to South Africa was previously rejected due to the lack of an extradition treaty between her country and Thailand.
On Wednesday, the Koh Samui Court decided to reduce her sentence to 33.4 years at a hearing.
“We found out that we misunderstood the meaning of life sentence,” Oosthuizen’s mother Lynn said. “It turns out Ashley got a full life sentence and not only 25 years as we thought. Her appeal went well and her sentence was reduced to 33.4 years. We have another 30 days to appeal.”
Oosthuizen’s family continue to believe in her innocence and posts updates regarding her situation on the “Free Ashley” website and Facebook page A Voice for Ashley Oosthuizen.
According to her parents, Oosthuizen has learned how to speak, write and read the Thai language. She currently offers cha-cha dance classes to her fellow inmates, and she has played the lead role in a prison performance.
“We hoped from the nature of the case that she would be released. But we trust that our heavenly Father has everything under control!” Oosthuizen’s mother said. “We praise Him for every little miracle. Our trust is still in Him and we know His plans for Ashley’s future are good. We know we serve a living God who loves us very much and will never leave us and forsake us. His plans are not our plans and they are far greater than we’ll ever realize!”