Page last updated at 17:22 GMT, Friday, 1 May 2009 18:22 UK

Pregnant Briton 'faces execution'

Samantha Orobator
Samantha Orobator fell pregnant four months after being taken into prison

A pregnant British woman faces death by firing squad if she is convicted of smuggling drugs at a trial in Laos, campaigners have said.

Prosecutors claim Samantha Orobator, 20, was in possession of 1.5lb (680g) of heroin when she was arrested at Wattay airport in Laos in August.

Legal charity Reprieve has called on the UK government to intervene with the Laotian authorities on her behalf.

The Foreign Office says it is "paying close attention to her welfare".

Miss Orobator, from London, has been held since her arrest at Phonthong prison in the south east Asian country. She became pregnant in the prison in December and is due to give birth in September.

In Laos, anyone caught with more than 1lb (500g) of heroin faces a mandatory death sentence.

Reprieve legal director Clive Stafford Smith said that on Thursday the authorities in Laos announced that they were bringing forward her trial by around a year to next week.

Nothing that happens in that prison is voluntary
Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve

He believes the decision to move the trial was only taken after arrangements were made for her to see a lawyer for the first time.

He said: "It's pretty shocking that they would do that apparently to avoid her seeing a British lawyer before she has to go to trial.

"The notion that no lawyer should be appointed to defend her is outrageous."

He said she was "certainly not guilty" and had originally told police the drugs were not hers.

Mr Stafford Smith added: "We're dealing with a woman who has clearly become pregnant in prison. Nothing that happens in that prison is voluntary".

Labour MP Stephen Pound, vice chair of the all party group on the death penalty, said Miss Orobator was being kept "in the most inhumane circumstances".

He criticised conditions in the prison saying there was evidence of "no space, no light, no exercise, no diet, no food, no consideration of the needs of a woman carrying a baby".

There is no British Embassy in Laos and the nearest is in the Thai capital, Bangkok.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We are paying close attention to her welfare and are in discussion with the Laotian authorities about her case.

"We have visited Samantha every month and we have kept in close contact with the family."

She said Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Minister Bill Rammell will raise the issue with the Laotian foreign minister when he visits the UK on 7 May.

But Mr Stafford Smith fears that could be too late.

He said: "The trial will be over by then. We're calling on the government to do everything in its power".

He wants the trial to be put back and for Reprieve lawyers and mental health professionals to be allowed into the prison. He is also seeking assurances that Miss Orobator will be provided with a proper defence.

Miss Orobator was born in Nigeria but lived in south London from the age of eight. Her father lives in Nigeria and her mother and three sisters live in Ireland.

She had been on holiday in Thailand and the Netherlands before travelling to Laos.

At least 39 people have been sentenced to death in Laos since 2003.

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