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Pregnant British drugs smuggler gets life

Pregnant Briton Samantha Orobator was found guilty of heroin smuggling and sentenced to life in prison by a court in Laos today.

A British Embassy spokesman said the verdict on the 20-year-old from London was handed down at a one-day hearing in the capital Vientiane.

Heroin trafficking is punishable by death, but Lao law does not allow the execution of pregnant women. Under a recent pact, she could be extradited to serve her time in Britain.

Orobator's case attracted attention because she became pregnant while in a women-only jail.

Lao officials think she may have managed to artificially inseminate herself.

Orobator arrived in court wearing a blue prison outfit and smiling to reporters. She was escorted by women prison guards but was not in handcuffs or ankle chains.

Her mother also attended the trial and looked distressed leaving court after the trial, but Orobator appeared calm.

Police said they found 1.5lbs of heroin in 68 capsules on Orobator when she was arrested at Vientiane airport on her way to Australia. The British legal charity Reprieve said the drugs were found in her luggage.

Orobator was arrested last August, but her case did not draw international attention until news of her pregnancy became public in early May amid concerns that she could be executed by firing squad if found guilty.

The Lao government later confirmed that under the country's criminal law, a pregnant woman cannot receive the death penalty, but officials delayed her scheduled trial date in May because of questions about how she became pregnant.

According to Lao officials, 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. That meant she must have become pregnant while in prison, they said.

Orobator's mother recently said her daughter had not been raped by prison officials or fellow prisoners, as some media had speculated.

The Vientiane Times yesterday quoted police as saying Orobator admitted she secretly obtained sperm from a fellow prisoner to impregnate herself to avoid the death penalty.