Laos probes how jailed Brit became pregnant

Lao authorities are investigating how a 20-year-old British woman accused of heroin smuggling became pregnant in prison, a challenge because the woman has refused to reveal the identity of the father, a government-run newspaper said today.

Samantha Orobator's case at first drew international attention over concerns that she could be executed by firing squad if she was found guilty. But under Lao criminal law, a pregnant woman cannot receive the death penalty.

Orobator was on her way to Australia when she was arrested at Vientiane airport on 5 August after police say they found 680 grams (1.5 pounds) of heroin in 68 capsules on her body. The British legal charity Reprieve claims the drugs were found in Orobator's luggage. Orabator has said she is innocent.

According to Lao authorities, Orobator initially told authorities she was pregnant by her boyfriend in England but tests carried out showed no signs of pregnancy. It was not until March 2, that she was found to be pregnant in a hospital test that was verified by a second test April 4, police said, meaning she must have gotten pregnant while in prison.

Police now say her trial will be delayed until they find out how Orobator became pregnant to ensure "the trial is fair and justice was done."

"This case is not difficult because everything is clear as she was in possession of the drug and all the evidence was on her body," Police Lt. Col. Khamphonh Sihaphancha was quoted as saying in the Vientiane Times. "The problem now is her pregnancy so we need more time to investigate."

Police did not say what their investigation would entail but they raised the possibility they would be looking into whether Orobator might have gotten pregnant by artificial insemination.

Orobator has refused to reveal how she became pregnant and her mother Jane Orobator recently said that she had not been raped by prison officials or fellow prisoners. Jane Orobator also said the father was not a Laotian prison official but she did not reveal the identity of the father nor say whether she knew who it was.

Even if she is convicted, Orobator may not spend much time in Lao jail. A deal struck between British and Laotian officials earlier this month which could allow Orobator, if convicted, to serve any jail sentence in Britain.

Laotian officials, however, could still veto her return.

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