A pregnant woman awaiting trial doesn’t usually make international headlines. But add the fact that the woman is facing death by firing squad, and you’ve got a story that’s getting attention in Britain and the U.S. This is the fate of Samantha Orobator, a 20-year-old British woman suspected of drug trafficking in Laos. Orobator was arrested on August 5, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for allegedly carrying about 1.1 pounds of heroin. According to an article on CNN, that amount of heroin usually carries a death penalty sentence, said Anna Morris, a lawyer for Reprieve, a London-based human rights group. Reprieve learned about Orobator’s case two weeks ago and thought the trial would begin today, but it hasn’t. Reprieve is worried about Orobator’s health, especially since she is pregnant and due in September, said Morris, who arrived in Laos to help 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. Orobator’s mother Jane says she learned of her daughter’s pregnancy in January — four months after she was arrested, according to CNN.
Orobator needs a local lawyer appointed to her, and Morris says it’s not uncommon in the Laotian justice system for a defendant to be given a lawyer only days before the start of trial. A British consul has also arrived in the country on behalf of Orobator. British Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell issued a statement on Saturday regarding Orobator:
The British Government is opposed to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances. We have made the Laos authorities aware of this at the highest levels in Samantha’s case. We are paying close attention to her welfare and are in regular contact with the Laotian authorities about her case. British Embassy officials, including the Ambassador, have visited her six times since her arrest. In addition, Britain’s consular representatives in Laos, the Australian Embassy, including the Australian Embassy doctor, have visited Samantha 10 times on our behalf.
There isn’t a British Embassy in Laos, but the Foreign Office said a British vice-consul arrived in Laos over the weekend. Rammell said he also plans to discuss Orobator’s case with the Laotian deputy prime minister this week. [CNN]