Samantha Orobator, the 20-year-old British woman who was accused of smuggling heroin and became pregnant in a Laos prison, has been given a life sentence.
The trial took just one day.
A panel of judges found Samantha Orobator, 20, guilty of trafficking 680g (1.5lb) of heroin last August, when she was caught trying to board a plane to Thailand.
A British Embassy diplomat who attended the trial said: “We are now seeking access to Samantha so we can discuss what we can do next.”
Orobator, who became pregnant while imprisoned, could have faced the death penalty. It is hoped that she will not spend much time in jail in Laos thanks to a prison transfer deal struck between David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary and the Laos government last month. Laotian officials, however, could still veto her return.
A Foreign Office spokesman said that the Government did not know how long it would take to bring Orobator back home, or if it would be possible at all. “She would ask for the transfer and then both states would have to consent to the transfer . It could take a number of months,” she said. [London Times]
The BBC reported that Orobator must also pay a £70,000 fine before she can leave the country.
Orobator admitted to smuggling the drugs, but claimed she was under duress.
When I wrote about this a few weeks ago, Orobator had been imprisoned in the brutal Phonthong prison, where human rights groups worried she was raped. Lao officials deny sexual assault, and claim that she impregnated herself with smuggled sperm as a way to escape the death penalty.
Phonthong Prison, known to human rights groups and former inmates as a squalid place where malnutrition and torture are routine, is no place for any human being – especially a pregnant 20-year-old who friends and family describe as “very fragile”. Daily beatings and a diet of pig-fat soup and rotten catfish can’t be good for the baby or mother.
The entire story is sadistic and saddening; one that makes you shudder when you put down the newspaper and hug your daughter or wife a little tighter before you go to bed. Horrifying? Yes – but there is something much worse. How she became pregnant and the circumstances of the bust, though important to the case, become somewhat irrelevant when looking at the bigger picture.
Samantha Orobator’s story is just one out of hundreds of thousands of similar tales. Every year countless non-violent offenders are thrown in comparable shit-holes around the planet for moving a substance the government doesn’t like over an imaginary line. None of them receive coverage on CNN or in your favorite newspaper. Each one of them has a family and friends and a life just like Samantha, but are thrown into a living hell – and all for what?
Scientific studies and common sense agree: the Drug War is a failure – so why ruin so many lives in vain?