Envoy, medic visit pregnant woman in Laos jail

Samantha Orobator became pregnant in prison, according to a spokeswoman for rights group Reprieve.
A British diplomat and a doctor have been able to visit a pregnant British woman being held in a Laos jail, a spokesman for the British Embassy in Bangkok said Wednesday.

A British vice-consul was allowed to see Samantha Orobator in jail on Tuesday, the spokesman told CNN. He took with him a doctor who was able to check Orobator’s health, the spokesman said, but they did not release the findings of the exam out of respect for her privacy. Orobator, 20, has been jailed in Laos since August, when she was arrested for allegedly carrying about half a kilogram of heroin. A conviction for carrying that amount of heroin usually results in execution by firing squad, but the Laotian Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that Orobator would escape that sentence because the country’s criminal law prohibits sentencing pregnant women to death. Watch a report on the case » Orobator’s trial has not yet been scheduled, but it is likely to happen next week, Foreign Ministry spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing said. The last execution in Laos was in 1990, the foreign affairs spokesman said. Laotian authorities have told the vice-consul that they will make a lawyer available to Orobator, the British Embassy spokesman said. The lawyer will be from Laos, the spokesman said. It is normal in the Laotian justice system for a defendant to get a lawyer only days before trial, according to Reprieve, a London-based legal charity. Orobator has not seen a lawyer since she was arrested August 5, Reprieve has said. Watch a former Laos prison inmate recount jail conditions » The group complained Tuesday that Orobator was denied access to one of their British lawyers who flew out to meet her. It said lawyer Anna Morris went to Laos on Sunday, having been assured she would be able to meet Orobator, but she was refused permission. In an open letter to British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Reprieve called the refusal “totally unacceptable.” British Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell plans to meet with the deputy prime minister of Laos on Thursday, when he will raise the issue of Orobator’s case, the Foreign Office said Tuesday. There is no British Embassy in Laos.

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Reprieve has said Orobator became pregnant in prison, possibly as a result of rape, and that she is due to give birth in September. That would mean Orobator became pregnant in January. Khenthong, of the Laotian Foreign Ministry, agreed that Orobator is five months’ pregnant. But he indicated that Orobator might have already been pregnant when she was arrested, and that she lost the first baby while in prison. He said 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, he said, Orobator asked for medication to cure a vaginal infection, and he believes it caused her to lose the child. Khenthong said officials were investigating Orobator’s pregnancy. Orobator’s mother, Jane, told CNN she cannot believe her daughter was involved in drug trafficking and was even surprised to learn she was in Laos.

“She is not the type of person who would be involved in drugs,” Jane Orobator said. Samantha Orobator was born in Nigeria and moved to London with her family when she was 8, her mother said. The amount of heroin Orobator was accused of carrying would sell for $80,000 to $150,000 on the streets of New York, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said. London’s Metropolitan Police declined to estimate a street value.