May 7, 2009 / 8:48 AM / 10 years ago

Briton held in Laos may return home

Samantha Orobator is seen in this undated handout photo. REUTERS/Reprieve/Handout

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain and Laos signed a prisoner transfer agreement on Thursday that could allow a pregnant British woman being held on drugs charges in the Asian country to serve any sentence at home.

Samantha Orobator, 20, is accused of smuggling heroin. She has been held in a prison in Laos since her arrest at Wattay airport in August 2008 and is five months pregnant.

Deputy Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, in London for talks, told British ministers that Orobator would not receive a death sentence if convicted.

“I would like to thank the Lao authorities and reiterate that we opposed the death penalty in all cases,” Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell said in a statement.

“The deputy prime minister told me that the Lao government would consider Samantha eligible for transfer to the UK to serve out any sentence once the prisoner transfer agreement comes into effect,” he added.

Foreign officials said such agreements generally have to go through the parliament before they take effect.

Reprieve, a prison rights charity that campaigns against capital punishment, demanded immediate access to Orobator for its counsel.

“As this trial proceeds, Reprieve’s main concern is for her health and that of her unborn child,” it said in a statement.

Reporting by Luke Baker and Keith Weir; Editing by Tim Castle

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