The Irish-based mother of a woman who could face the death penalty in Laos for drug smuggling has appealed for her pregnant daughter’s release.
British woman Samantha Orobator, 20, was arrested last August at Wattay airport, in Vientiane, for allegedly carrying around half a kilogram of heroin. She has been in a notorious jail since, and if convicted could be sentenced to death by firing squad.
Her mother, Jane Orobator, a 40-year-old student at Trinity College Dublin who is originally from Nigeria, told CNN from Dublin today that she has a “God-big” fear for her daughter’s life.
"I don't know what to do for her. What can I do? I don't have a lawyer. I don't have anyone," Orobator said. "I would give my life. If you guys can just help me ... I can put my life on it.
"My life is crumbling just right before me. I am in hell. I am living, but I don't know if I'm living or existing anymore. It has been a nightmare. This is a bad dream."
Orobator lives with her three other daughters in the Dublin suburb of Castleknock, and is studying to be a psychiatric nurse. She moved to Dublin eight years ago, but left Samantha to live in London with her aunt.
The Trinity student said doesn’t know why her daughter was in Laos, and has described her as “quiet and levelheaded.”
British charity Reprieve, which campaigns for people facing the death penalty, has said that Samantha Orobator became pregnant while held in Phonthong prison.
Laotian officials have said that Oborbator couldn’t face the death penalty because she is five pregnant – but according to Reprieve, she could still be shot after she gives birth.
Reprieve says she is five months pregnant, and that because she has not had access to a lawyer, it is not possible to confirm whether Orobator was raped in prison.
“We are all glad to see that the Laotians have recognized that their own law forbids executing Samantha by firing squad,” said Reprieve Director Clive Stafford Smith, “But this is only a first, belated step forward. It was cruel to allow Samantha to think she might be shot for all these months, and the Laotians knew all along that she needed a lawyer.
“What they did not know is the international outrage that the case would cause. It seems that by delaying they now hope that the media will lose interest in Samantha’s plight.”
The U.S. state department’s 2008 report said that Laotian prison conditions were harsh and “occasionally life-threatening.”
It also said that there were credible reports that ethnic minority prisoners and some foreign prisoners were treated particularly harshly.
“Medical facilities were extremely poor,” the report said, “and medical treatment for serious ailments was unavailable.”
Phonthong prison, where Oborbator is being held, is said to be brutal.
Kay Danes, an Australian who spent 11 months in the prison before being released in 2001 said that she was “roughed up a bit and put in isolation” and her husband “got the wooden blocks on his legs and was quite brutally intimidated.”
She said inmates had their genitals burned in front of her, and that one man had his head stuck in a bucket of sewage.