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Group: Jailed UK woman in Laos has no lawyer

Group: Jailed UK woman in Laos has no lawyer

A pregnant British woman who faces possible death by firing squad in Laos if convicted of drug smuggling has not been assigned a defense lawyer, raising concerns as to whether she would receive a fair trial, a human rights group said Monday.
Samantha Orobator, 20, has been in jail in the communist-ruled country since August, when she was accused of trying to smuggle 1.5 pounds (0.68 kilogram) of heroin in her luggage. Those caught with more than the statutory limit of 1.1 pounds (0.5 kilograms) faces a mandatory death penalty.
"She hasn't been appointed a lawyer yet and that has been our concern," Anna Morris, a lawyer with the British-based human rights group Reprieve, said in a telephone interview. "We are concerned that any hearing may be quite quick in comparison to what will happen in other countries."
Morris, who arrived Sunday in Vientiane, the country's capital, said she had been granted permission to meet with Orobator on Tuesday. The lawyer said Orobator had earlier been told the trial could start Monday, but it was now unclear when the trial would begin.
The Lao Foreign Ministry spokesman, one of the few government officials who will speak with the foreign press, was not immediately available for comment.
Morris said the group was worried about the detainee's health.
"We are concerned about the effect of the uncertainty on Sam's well-being ... given her age, her vulnerability, her pregnancy," Morris said. "We just seek clarity from the Lao government as soon as possible as to what exactly is going to happen so that we can advise her properly."
A Reprieve statement said Orobator was five months pregnant, but because she had no access to counsel they could not confirm whether she was raped.
The circumstances of her pregnancy remain unclear and the group's statement could not be independently verified.
She had been in jail for months before Britain's government learned of the detention. British diplomats and doctors have since visited her, according to the British Foreign Office.


Updated : 2021-08-03 05:28 GMT+08:00