Fears trial of pregnant Lao prisoner may be delayed

Briton Samantha Orobator has been jailed in Laos since August on a drug charge.
A British legal charity expressed concern Friday after a report that the trial of a pregnant British woman jailed in Laos would be delayed.

The Vientiane Times, an English-language newspaper in Laos, reported Friday that the case of Samantha Orobator “needs further investigation to prove how she became pregnant while in prison before the case can come to court.” Orobator, 20, was jailed last August at the Vientiane airport for allegedly carrying about half a kilogram of heroin. She is more than five months pregnant, and legal aid charity Reprieve — which has worked on her case — has said that is possibly the result of rape while in prison, perhaps by a guard. Orobator’s mother, however, visited her in prison earlier this week and afterward said that she was not sexually assaulted in prison and that the father is not a Lao official. Reprieve said Friday that delaying the trial would be worrisome because Orobator on June 6 will enter the third trimester of pregnancy, after which it is unwise to travel.

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Britain and Laos signed a prisoner transfer agreement earlier this month after Orobator’s case drew international attention. The agreement would allow Orobator to serve her sentence in Britain after any conviction. “We really want a trial before June 6 and we hope that nothing gets in the way of that,” Reprieve spokeswoman Katherine O’Shea told CNN.

A spokesman for Britain’s Foreign Office said it was unaware of a delay in Orobator’s case but was checking the report. Orobator is represented by a Lao lawyer whom the government appointed earlier this month.