Page last updated at 13:38 GMT, Monday, 4 May 2009 14:38 UK

Lawyer to visit pregnant prisoner

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

A UK human rights lawyer has flown to Laos to assist a pregnant Briton who faces possible death by firing squad, if convicted of drug smuggling.

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

Her trial has been brought forward and is due to start this week.

Legal charity Reprieve said its lawyer, Anna Morris, has been given permission to see Miss Orabator on Tuesday.

Miss Orobator has been held at Phonthong prison in the east Asian country since last August.

She became pregnant in the prison in December and is due to give birth in September, it is claimed.

Reprieve says authorities in Laos have brought the trial forward a year to avoid her having proper legal representation.

The charity says the decision to reschedule the trial was only taken after arrangements were made for her to see a lawyer for the first time.

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Laotian government spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing insisted that "the trial will be carried out fairly".

He said it is expected to be held this week but was unable to confirm a date.

Ms Morris flew into the country on Sunday after permission was granted to meet Miss Orobator on Tuesday.

Ms Morris told the BBC: "Things are moving quickly. We found out only this morning that the trial wasn't going to take place today [Monday], but we still have no more information as to when it will take place.

"We are of course concerned, given that the prison conditions are well documented, we are concerned for her welfare, and we are concerned for the sort of nutrition she's receiving, but we'll know more once we've seen her.

She is five months pregnant, without ever having met a lawyer, facing a show trial for her life
Clive Stafford Smith

"But at this point we can certainly say that we're very concerned."

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

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

Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith said of the pregnant Briton: "There can hardly be a circumstance where scheduling a capital trial is less appropriate.

"She is five months pregnant, without ever having met a lawyer, facing a show trial for her life."

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said British Embassy officials, including the Ambassador, have visited Miss Orobator a total of six times since her arrest.

Jane Orobator
Jane Orobator says she is scared about her daughter's situation

British officials said these visits had been limited to a period of about 20 minutes once a month.

There is no British Embassy in Laos and the nearest is in the Thai capital, Bangkok. The Foreign Office only learned of her arrest when Australian authorities passed on information from another prison inmate.

The FCO reiterated the government's opposition to the death penalty "in all circumstances".

An FCO spokesman said: "In cases where a British national faces charges that carry the death penalty or has been sentenced to death, we make representations at whatever stage and level is deemed appropriate.

"We take every opportunity to make representations to the Lao authorities about our opposition to the death penalty."

'So scared'

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

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

Her mother Jane Orobator said she was "so scared" about her daughter's situation.

"I'm just appealing to the British government, to the Laos authorities, to just please release her. They should just bring her back to me."

Mrs Orobator added that she has no idea why her daughter was in Laos.

Mrs Orobator last heard from her daughter in July, when she was on holiday in Holland.



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SEE ALSO
Country profile: Laos
29 Sep 11 |  Country profiles

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