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Trial of pregnant Briton on death row brought forward

A pregnant British woman who faces execution by firing squad if she is convicted of drug smuggling is due to stand trial in Laos today. Lawyers from the charity Reprieve were battling yesterday to get access to Samantha Orobator, 20, in the notorious Phong Thong jail in the capital, Vientiane, before her trial begins.

The Laotian authorities have already breached international consular agreements by failing to inform the British Government of her arrest in August last year, claiming they did not have access to a fax machine. Now Reprieve claims they have brought forward her trial by up to a year specifically to deny her legal representation.

Reprieve's director, Clive Stafford Smith, called it a "farce" and a "show trial". Anna Morris, a lawyer from Reprieve, flew to Laos yesterday after securing an appointment with Ms Orobator tomorrow, only to be told that the authorities intended to open proceedings this morning.

Nigerian-born Ms Orobator, of south London, was arrested at Wattay Airport, allegedly carrying 680g of heroin. Smuggling more than 500g carries a mandatory death sentence in Laos.