The fate of a pregnant British woman jailed in Laos will be discussed at a meeting Thursday in London between top officials from the two countries.
Officials at the meeting are expected to sign a prisoner transfer agreement that would allow Samantha Orobator to serve out a sentence in Britain, if she is convicted at her forthcoming trial, according to an official Laotian source who spoke to CNN. The agreement document has been prepared, the source told CNN. A Foreign Office spokesman in London confirmed that the meeting was taking place, but could offer no details about it or the agreement. “A prisoner transfer agreement would be great for our client,” said Katherine O’Shea, a spokeswoman for the London-based legal charity Reprieve, which has been working on Orobator’s case. “We’d be thrilled if the Lao government and Britain would sign something like that.” Reprieve has been trying unsuccessfully for days to gain access to Orobator in jail. One of its lawyers, Anna Morris, is in Laos but has been unable to meet with the 20-year-old. A British diplomat and a doctor were able to visit Orobator this week, a spokesman for the British Embassy in Bangkok said Wednesday. Britain has no embassy in Laos. Lao authorities have told British authorities that they will make a Laotian lawyer available to Orobator, said the British Embassy spokesman. It is normal in the Lao justice system for a defendant to get a lawyer only days before trial, according to Reprieve. The charity says Orobator has not seen a lawyer since she was arrested in early August. Orobator was arrested at Wattay Airport in Vientiane for allegedly carrying about a half-kilogram of heroin.
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A conviction for carrying that amount usually results in execution by firing squad, but a spokesman for the Laotian Foreign Ministry has said Orobator would escape that sentence because the country’s criminal law prohibits executing pregnant women. Orobator’s trial has not been scheduled but is likely to happen next week, said the spokesman, Khenthong Nuanthasing. Reprieve spokeswoman Clare Algar in London said Wednesday that it may be beneficial for Orobator to be tried quickly in Laos, be convicted and receive a sentence. “It’s quite weird as a human rights organization to say that. But if she is sentenced, the British government could ask for a prisoner transfer agreement so that she could be sent back to Britain to serve here,” Algar said. “At a minimum, she would be in better conditions, and it would be better for her baby, if she were here.” Algar said there have been complaints from others who have been in the Lao jail that not enough water and food is provided, there is no hot and cold water, and prisoners must sleep on the floor. The prison is mixed sex, Algar added. Reprieve has said Orobator became pregnant in prison, possibly as a result of rape, and that she is to give birth in September.
Khenthong, of the Foreign Ministry, has said it might be Orobator’s second pregnancy in prison. She declared she was two months pregnant on her arrest, he said, but at some point she lost the fetus. Khenthong said officials are investigating Orobator’s pregnancy.