Pregnant Brit jailed on drug charges to leave Laos

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The Independent Online

A pregnant British woman jailed in Laos for trafficking heroin will be sent home tomorrow to serve her sentence in Britain, a Lao government official said today.

Samantha Orobator, 20, was sentenced in June to life in prison after pleading guilty to drug trafficking. Police said they found 1.5 pounds (680 grams) of heroin in 68 capsules on Orobator's body when she was arrested at Vientiane airport on her way to Australia.

Heroin trafficking is punishable by death, but Orobator was spared because Lao law does not allow the execution of pregnant women.

Under a pact signed in May by Laos and Britain, Orobator can be extradited to serve her time in Britain, though it is unlikely she will serve a life sentence. The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding last week bringing the agreement into force.

Lao Foreign Ministry spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing said that Orabator's transfer Thursday evening is a humanitarian gesture that takes into account her pregnancy. She will fly to London via Bangkok.

"Everything is ready," Khenthong told AP Television News. "So tomorrow evening, we will be able to transfer Samantha Orobator back to the UK."

British officials warned that Orabator had to be transferred soon because of the advanced state of her pregnancy. She will be 36 weeks pregnant on Aug. 12 — after which she would likely be unable to take an international flight.

"To my understanding, she is fine. The doctor keeps an eye on her," Khentong said. "Both the official from U.K. and from Laos have taken care of her, particularly her health."

Orobator had been jailed since last August, but her plight drew public attention earlier this year after the British legal charity Reprieve publicized her circumstances and the possibility she could be executed by firing squad.

The case attracted particular interest because Orobator became pregnant while incarcerated. Lao officials have asserted that she may have artificially inseminated herself while behind bars.

According to Lao officials, Nigerian-born Orobator initially told authorities she was pregnant by her boyfriend in England, but tests after she was arrested showed no signs of pregnancy. It was not until March 2 that a hospital test showed she was pregnant, verified by a second test April 4, police said.