Fighting for a fair trial
I am working with Reprieve, a legal action charity, to help one of my constituents Samantha Orobator who is in prison in Laos.
Samantha grew up living with an aunt in Camberwell. She was arrested in Laos with 0.6 kg of heroin in August last year - an amount that exceeds the statutory minimum for the death penalty in Laos.
Although Phonthong Prison is a woman's only prison Samantha became pregnant in December, and is due to give birth in September.
It is understood that her trial was planned for next year but on Thursday 30th April the Laotian authorities announced that it had been bought forward to next week. Samantha has still not seen a lawyer.
Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of Reprieve said yesterday "It's absolutely no coincidence that yesterday the Laotians announced that they were moving her trial up probably by a year to next week. It's pretty shocking that they would do that, apparently to avoid her seeing a British lawyer, before she has to go to trial. The notion that no lawyer should be appointed to defend her is outrageous."
Reprieve believe that Samantha's life hangs in the balance. There are many reports of abuse and several deaths in Phonthong Prison, including that of a British national last year. Conditions remain harsh and the diet is dangerously inadequate and Reprieve has grave concerns for her health and that of her unborn child.
I have made urgent representations to the Foriegn and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to intervene on Samantha's behalf. I am working with Bill Rammell MP, Minister of State at the FCO to ensure that she receives a fair trial and that it does not take place before Thursday 7th May when the Laotian Deputy Prime Minister will visit the UK and the FCO can raise her case.