Page last updated at 17:02 GMT, Friday, 7 August 2009 18:02 UK

Pregnant prisoner returns to UK

Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve: "The process against Samantha in Laos has been a total sham"

A pregnant Briton jailed for life in Laos for heroin smuggling has arrived back in the UK.

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

Orobator escaped the death penalty because she became pregnant in jail and will complete her sentence in the UK.

She said she was "enormously relieved and happy to be back on British soil" after "an unimaginable nightmare".

Orobator was handed to UK officials by the Lao authorities on Thursday in what they said was a "humanitarian gesture".

I would be grateful for a little peace as this has been a very traumatic experience both for me, and for my unborn child
Samantha Orobator

She arrived at Heathrow Airport at around 0630 BST, having flown from Laos's capital, Vientiane.

The BBC's Asha Tanna at Heathrow said all other passengers on the flight were asked to get off the plane before Orobator was escorted from it.

With uniformed police standing by, Orobator stepped off the aircraft to be met by a prison van due to take her to Holloway prison, north London.

Correspondents said Orobator, who was not handcuffed, laughed as she arrived on the tarmac.

'Artificial insemination'

At the prison she was reunited with her mother Jane in a two-hour meeting.

Speaking afterwards, her mother said: "She seems good, she seems as good as she could be. I'm so happy, I was so excited, I was hugging her. The priority is medical care, I live for the baby to be OK."

Orobator was expected to meet her lawyers to discuss her case.

In a statement, she said: "I would like to thank all those who were involved in my return, including various British government officials, for their efforts on my behalf, and for their support.

"Meanwhile, I would be grateful for a little peace as this has been a very traumatic experience both for me, and for my unborn child."


Samantha Orobator arrives back in the UK

Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant said: "We do not condone any crimes involving illegal drugs. We work around the world to combat the use of illegal drugs."

However he added the transfer was "excellent news", saying: "[It] means that Samantha will give birth in the UK, close to her relatives and under UK medical care.

"This is clearly the best outcome for all - not least her unborn child."

He also said the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was continuing to work for the early transfer of John Watson, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, who is also imprisoned in Laos for drug smuggling.

Watson, 47, was identified as the father of Orobator's baby in a statement read out on her behalf by the local prosecutor.

Her statement said she had artificially inseminated herself while in prison using Watson's semen. Her baby is due next month.

Jane Orobator: 'I am very happy and relieved'

At an earlier press conference, her mother spoke of her relief at her daughter's return, saying, "I can look forward to my life again."

The prisoner's aunt, Augusta Oghagbon, said the family was "overjoyed" at the repatriation.

She added: "It's like it is Christmas for us today, but even more than that."

"We have all been so worried about her but now we can get some rest, knowing she is safe."

Orobator admitted trying to smuggle the heroin through Wattay airport in an effort to take it to Australia.

Convicted criminals should always serve their sentence in the country where their crime was committed. Human rights shouldn't come into it
[Richkw], Canterbury

A Laos Foreign Ministry spokesman said Orobator's return to the UK was a humanitarian gesture that took into account her pregnancy.

Clive Stafford Smith, director of the human rights charity Reprieve, which has worked on the case, said the Laos government had "consistently violated Samantha's legal rights, including coercing her into signing statements by withholding her right to a trial".

He said that legal proceedings would be brought against the government next week if they did not reconsider her sentence.

Mr Stafford Smith added: "How can we justify throwing someone in prison when we don't even know the basic facts of the case?"

The charity called on the UK government to ensure that Orobator would not have to give birth behind bars.

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