Local News

UNC professor, jailed in Argentina, has his defenders

Posted May 17, 2012 4:51 p.m. EDT
Updated May 17, 2012 6:38 p.m. EDT

— A University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor has spent months in an Argentinian prison while colleagues in Chapel Hill advocate on his behalf.

Paul Frampton, a physics and astronomy professor, was arrested at an airport in Buenos Aires at the end of January and charged with attempting to smuggle drugs out of the country, according to the U.S. State Department.

British news reports say Frampton told investigators he was in Argentina to meet a model he'd met online and someone gave him a bag they claimed belonged to the woman.

"It looks like he made a bad decision to accept a bag that he shouldn't have accepted, but it's a terrible thing to have to spend several years in prison for that," said Mark Williams, a UNC professor of math.

"Everyone that I have talked to absolutely believes that he was set up," Williams said.

Frampton's ex-wife and students also believe in his innocence, and they worry for his safety. " I'm worried he could die there," Williams said. "It's a very threatening situation."

Congressman David Price reached out to both UNC and the State Department to add his support to seeing Frampton get his fair and due process.

Meanwhile, Frampton continues to work with his graduate students. Williams said he is in touch over the phone every week or two. 

"Apparently, he's been working on physics," he said. "He's been trying to complete papers that are already in progress with them or new papers."