Malaysia's top appeals court on Tuesday acquitted an Australian grandmother who faced the death penalty in a drugs case, her lawyer said.

Defense lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah said Australian national Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto was immediately taken into immigration custody because her visa has expired.

Exposto was first exonerated by the High Court in 2017 on grounds that she didn't know there were 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) of crystal methamphetamine in her bag when she was arrested in December 2014 at Kuala Lumpur's international airport.

But the appeals court last year overturned the court's acquittal.

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Her lawyer said he is now applying for her release and will fight plans to deport her.

Her defense lawyers had said that Exposto, a 54-year-old mother of four from Sydney and also a grandmother, was the victim of an internet romance scam.

Exposto has said that she went to Shanghai to meet a U.S. serviceman with whom she had an online romance and had been asked to carry a bag full of clothes. She said she was unaware that the bag also contained drugs.

Exposto had arrived from Shanghai and was to catch a connecting flight to Melbourne when she was detained in Malaysia.

Malaysia has a mandatory death sentence for anyone found guilty of carrying more than 50 grams of a prohibited drug.

Three Australians have been hanged for drug offenses in Malaysia since 1986.

- AP