Pregnant Briton May Face Firing Squad In Laos

Samantha Orobator, a pregnant 20-year-old from London and possible rape victim, could be facing execution in Laos for her alleged role in drug trafficking. She has not yet been allowed to see a lawyer.

Orobator was arrested at Wattay Airport in Laos on August 6th, 2008 with 680g of heroin. In Laos, smuggling over 500g of heroin across national borders carries a mandatory death sentence. She goes on trial this week.

Orobator has been held in the notorious Phonthong prison for the past nine months. She has not yet met with her lawyer, and British diplomats only heard of her detention months after she was arrested. Orobator claimed that she was forced to carry drugs for a third party, and there is no evidence she was anything more than just a drug mule. The human rights group Reprieve says that Orobator will meet with her lawyer, Anna Morris, on Tuesday, but by then it may be too late. Reprieve reported that Orobator contacted them recently with the information that the trial had been moved up to Tuesday morning. The charity claims that Laotian authorities have brought the trial forward in attempts to stop Orobator from accessing adequate legal representation. Morris told Sky News:

"That has been our concern from the outset, that she has had no access to legal counsel before this week.

"We don't know that she is going to have any before any trial takes place and we are deeply concerned about the implications of that for her given her vulnerability, given her age and given her lack of familiarity with the system."

To make matters worse, the Independent reports that Orobator's pregnancy may be the result of sexual assault. (She is five months pregnant, and due to give birth in September.) Friends worry that since Orobator is being held in a women's prison, does not speak the language, and should have had no contact with men, her pregnancy may be evidence of abuse. Reprieve said: "The prison where she is being held in Phonthong is meant to be all-female, but this is apparently not the case.''

Laos prisons are famous for their lack of medical care and mistreatment of prisoners, which has led to the deaths of at least two foreign nationals in the last decade. The daily ration apparently consists of two bowls of pig fat water soup and 500g of sticky rice. Phonthong prison has also been the site of several reported instances of torture, with some inmates having their genitals burnt, the Guardian reports. It is unknown whether Orobator has suffered from mistreatment while behind held in prison, but since she is only allowed to speak to British officials for twenty minutes, once a month, and always in the presence of a guard, the conditions of her arrest and possible rape may never come to light.

Pregnant Briton Samantha Orobator To Face Drug Smuggling Trial In Laos On Monday [Guardian]
Pregnant British Woman Faces Firing Squad Over Drug Charges [Independent]
Pregnant British Woman In Laos To Go On Trial On Monday [Telegraph]