Page last updated at 17:49 GMT, Wednesday, 3 June 2009 18:49 UK

Pregnant Briton sentenced to life

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Samantha Orobator leaves the court in Vientiane, followed by her mother, Jane

A pregnant British woman accused of smuggling heroin has been found guilty in Laos and sentenced to life in jail.

Samantha Orobator, 20, from south London, was caught with 1.5lb (680g) of the drug at Wattay airport in the capital, Vientiane, last August.

She would have faced a mandatory death sentence, but the execution of pregnant prisoners is not allowed in Laos.

Her trial had been delayed while Laotian officials tried to find out how she became pregnant in prison.

Pregnant in prison

The court took only three hours to reach its verdict, and during questioning by the prosecution and the three judges, Orobator admitted to carrying more than half a kilogram of heroin in an effort to try and take it out of the country to Australia.

Orobator's mother was in court. She did not say anything; nor did Orobator as she was taken back to prison.

Ronke Oseni, a friend of Orobator's, said she could hardly imagine what her friend was going through.

Samantha Orobator
Transferred prisoners are not able to appeal through British courts

She told the BBC: "[It's] a possibility that she may come to serve her sentence here, but if that doesn't take place... I mean, life in Laos, and living in those conditions for the rest of your life..."

Daniel Painter, from the British Embassy in Thailand, attended the trial. He was asked if the proceedings had been fair.

He told the BBC: ''We don't comment or interfere in the judicial proceedings of other countries. If Samantha has concerns about fair trial issues then we can take those up with the Laos government.''

The UK has recently signed a prisoner transfer agreement with Laos, which means Orobator could serve any potential sentence in a British jail. British officials have applied to see her to ask what she wants to do next.

She has 21 days to appeal against the sentence. If she applies for a transfer, she may see out much if not all of her sentence in the UK.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said that British authorities would enforce any sentence imposed by a foreign court, although British release arrangements would be applied.

Once a prisoner is transferred to the UK, the High Court is asked to set a minimum period that they would have to serve before being considered for parole.

FROM BBC WORLD SERVICE

Transferred prisoners are not able to appeal through British courts.

An FCO spokesman said officials would soon be in touch with her to discuss what she wants to do next.

The spokesman told the BBC: "We will be discussing with Samantha if she wants to apply for a transfer. There is a prisoner transfer agreement; it will be up to her."

He said he was unable to say whether Orobator would be transferred back to the UK before the start of the third trimester of her pregnancy on 6 June - as has been called for by British human rights charity Reprieve.

Orobator has been held for nine months in Phongthong prison, where she reportedly became pregnant in December.

In response to the verdict, a Reprieve spokeswoman told the BBC: "We're relieved that she's had her trial and we are keen that the British government brings her home to the UK.

"Above all we're concerned about her health and the health of her unborn child."

The spokeswoman added that she hoped the transfer would happen in about two weeks.

"There's no real reason for delay," she said.



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