A British woman facing possible execution in Laos will escape the death sentence because she is pregnant, a spokesman for the Laotian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.
Samantha Orobator, 20, was arrested at Wattay airport in August after allegedly being caught with 680g (1.5lb) of heroin while she was trying to board a plane to Thailand.
Normally anyone found in Laos with more than 500g of heroin faces the death penalty by firing squad.
During her eight months in custody, Ms. Orobator who is believed to be five months pregnant was without legal representation. Doing the math, it appears that Orobator became pregnant while in custody in the notorious Phonthong prison, possibly as a result of rape.
This unfortunate fact has worked in her favor, since another provision of the law prohibits the execution of pregnant women.
Authorities have indicated that Orobator might have already been pregnant when she was arrested, and that she lost the first baby while in prison.
Allegedly, Orobator declared on the day of her arrest in August that she was two months pregnant by her boyfriend. After she had already been in jail for some time, Orobator supposedly asked for medication to cure a vaginal infection. It is believed it caused her to lose the child.
Laos authorities said officials are investigating Orobator’s pregnancy.
Amnesty International says there have been no executions in Laos since 1989. Those sentenced to death are believed to have remained on death row.
Orobator’s mother a student at Trinity College Dublin, said she found out about her daughter’s pregnancy in January. Jane Orobator told CNN she heard the news from the British Foreign Office, which has been monitoring the case.
There is no British Embassy in Laos; a British vice-consul arrived in the country over the weekend, the British Foreign Office said.
Jane Orobator said she cannot believe her daughter was involved in drug trafficking, and she was surprised to learn she was in Laos.
“I don’t know” what she was doing there, she said from her home in Dublin, Ireland. “The last time she spoke with me, she said she was on holiday in London and she would come to see us in Dublin before returning to the UK in July.
“She is not the type of person who would be involved in drugs,” she added.
Supporters are worried about her health, especially given her pregnancy, states barrister Anna Morris who is acting as legal counsel for Ms. Orobator. “She became pregnant in prison. We are concerned that it may not have been consensual and we are concerned that someone who finds herself in prison at 20 is subject to exploitation,” she said. Morris was sent from London to Laos to try to help Orobator.
The lawyer arrived there on Sunday and is hoping to visit Orobator on Tuesday. A British consul has also arrived in the country.
“I am the first British lawyer who has asked for access to her,” Morris said. “She needs to have a local lawyer appointed to her. We are pressing very hard for the local authorities to appoint one.”
She said it was normal in the Laotian justice system for a defendant to get a lawyer only days before a trial.
Samantha Orobator was born in Nigeria and moved to London with her family when she was 8, her mother said.
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