Lao court jails pregnant Briton for life

Wed Jun 3, 2009 2:03pm EDT

1 of 3. Briton Samantha Orobator arrives for her trial for drug smuggling at a court in Vientiane, June 3, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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* Pregnant Briton gets life for drug smuggling

VIENTIANE (Reuters) - A British woman who became pregnant while awaiting trial in Laos was sentenced on Wednesday to life in prison after being found guilty of drug smuggling.

A court in the capital Vientiane gave Samantha Orobator the maximum prison term after a three-hour hearing held behind closed doors, a British diplomat who attended the trial said.

Orobator, 20, was arrested in the communist Southeast Asian nation in August 2008 with more than 0.6 kg (1.3lbs) of heroin.

"The defendant was sentenced to life in prison," the diplomat told Reuters. "We are now seeking access to Samantha so we can discuss what we can do next."

Although the amount of heroin Orobator was carrying exceeded the statutory minimum for the death penalty, Lao officials told British ministers last month that she faced only a prison sentence if convicted.

Britain and Laos signed a prisoner transfer agreement on May 7 which could allow Orobator to serve most of her sentence at home.

Orobator, clad in a blue prison uniform, did not speak to reporters after her trial. She appeared distressed as police put her in a van to return to prison.

Mystery surrounds how she was able to conceive while behind bars and Lao and British officials have released few details about her much-publicized case.

The state-run Vientiane Times reported Wednesday that Orobator impregnated herself by secretly obtaining sperm from another prisoner. The daily did not name a source or give further details.

(Reporting by Prapan Chankaew; Writing and additional reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Darren Schuettler and Valerie Lee)

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