A pregnant British woman accused of drug trafficking and being held in a jail in Laos will not face the death penalty because of her unborn baby, a spokesman for the south-east Asian country has revealed.
The announcement came as a British lawyer and diplomat failed to secure access to prisoner Samantha Orobator.
Foreign ministry spokesman Khenthong Nuanthasing told reporters that even if she were convicted of trying to smuggle 1.5lbs of heroin, 20-year-old Ms Orobator would not be sentenced to death because she was expecting.
He said that anyone found in possession of more than 1.1lb was subject to the death penalty “but there is another provision of criminal law... that the death penalty will not apply to pregnant women”.
The spokesman said the trial of Nigerian-born Ms Orobator would now not be held until next week to give time for an appropriate lawyer to be appointed to defend her. “It might take some time,” Mr Khenthong told the Associated Press.
Campaigners remained concerned about Ms Orobator, particularly since much about her case and the allegations against her remain unclear. The London-based charity Reprieve said it believed Ms Orobator was five months pregnant, reportedly after having been raped while inside Phonthong prison. An Australian doctor who recently visited her said she is due to give birth on September 6.
Mr Nuanthasing initially said the young woman had been pregnant before she was taken into custody nine months ago. He later said that she may have lost the baby while in jail.
“If this is true, then Samantha has already had one miscarriage in that terrible prison,” said Reprieve executive director Clare Algar. “In light of the new US State Department report on the deplorable conditions, the need for proper health care is vital.”