Laura Plummer: British tourist jailed in Egypt likely to remain in prison despite reports of presidential pardon

Foreign Office denies media claims it told her family she would be released imminently

Samuel Osborne
Wednesday 31 January 2018 17:40 GMT
Laura Plummer was sentenced to three years in Egyptian prison for taking banned painkillers into the country
Laura Plummer was sentenced to three years in Egyptian prison for taking banned painkillers into the country

A British woman jailed in Egypt for taking banned painkillers into the country is likely to remain in jail despite media reports she would be freed within days.

Laura Plummer was sentenced to three years in prison on Boxing Day for taking nearly 300 Tramadol tablets into the country, and her family were offered hope when it was reported she would be pardoned by the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

However, the reports turned out to be unfounded and her name did not appear on the President's list of pardoned prisoners on Monday.

"There was no pardon from the very beginning," a spokesperson for the Egyptian Embassy told The Independent, before going on to call the claims "fake news."

She said Ms Plummer had the opportunity to appeal "if she thinks her sentence is unfair," and could be released early for good behaviour after serving half of her three-year sentence.

Laura Plummer's sister on her three-year prison sentence: 'It has been a complete nightmare'

Last week, The Sun reported that Ms Plummer's family understood she would be released from serving the rest of her sentence after being pardoned by the Egyptian President.

The paper said Mr Sisi, who can issue pardons to prisoners as part of celebrations over Egypt’s January 2011 revolution, was expected to announce her release last Saturday.

Ms Plummer’s relatives flew to Cairo on the expectation she would be freed from prison, but her name was not on the list.

It was followed by reports the pardon had been withdrawn and The Sun said the British Embassy in Cairo had told Ms Plummer's mother there had been a “mistake.”

The Foreign Office denied the reports were accurate, with a spokesperson saying: ”At no point did Foreign Office staff advise Laura’s family that we believed she would be imminently released.”

They said the department would continue to support Ms Plummer and her family, adding: “We continue to recommend they obtain updates on Laura’s legal situation from her lawyer.”

Laura Plummer with her partner Omar Caboo

Karl Turner, Ms Plummer’s local MP, has said it was “disappointing” the story had been published without being confirmed “through official channels.”

He said he had been in regular contact with officials in Egypt and the UK, and British officials had “only ever maintained throughout that they have received no such information from the Egyptian authorities”.

In a statement posted on Twitter, he said: “It is clear to me that any suggestion that she was to be released by the Egyptian authorities was merely speculative rumour and it had not been confirmed by the British Foreign Office.

“It would be highly unusual for the Egyptian Government officials not to notify Foreign Office officials here in the UK if they had in fact intended to release a British citizen from detention in Egypt.

“It is disappointing to say the very least that this story was ever published without it being confirmed through official channels.”

But Ms Plummer’s sister, Rachel, defended The Sun and said the Foreign Office had said they were 95 per cent certain she was on the pardon list.

In a message posted on Twitter that included Mr Turner’s Twitter handle, she wrote: “Hi all, as a family we need to set the record straight regards to Laura’s pardon.

“We were told by the Foreign Office who read out an email to my mother that they were 95 per cent certain that Laura was on the pardon list, then we were contacted by Laura’s solicitor Mohamed Osman, confirming that she had been pardoned.

The Sun followed the same information we did and have been with us throughout this awful nightmare from start to finish.

“They’ve offered us support at each stage and to suggest they went on a speculative rumour is wrong and unfair.”

Ms Plummer was arrested at Hurghada airport on 9 October last year when she flew into the Red Sea resort with 290 Tramadol tablets in her suitcase.

While the painkiller is legal in the UK on prescription, it is banned in Egypt. The synthetic opioid is often used as a heroin substitute, and one Egyptian minister has said it is the most abused drug in the country.

Her family said she was taking the painkiller for her Egyptian partner, Omar Caboo, who suffers from severe back pain, and she had no idea what she was doing was illegal.

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