Reprieve met Samantha Orobator yesterday in the presence of 10 senior Lao officials, making open communication impossible; requests urgent private access to Samantha ahead of her trial.

May 13, 2009

Image of Samantha Orobator

Reprieve confirms that lawyer Anna Morris saw Samantha Orobator for the first time yesterday, Tuesday 12th May. However, Ms Morris was unable to offer Samantha any assistance as the meeting was hosted and managed by the Lao authorities – making open communication impossible.

Reprieve understood that Ms Morris would see Samantha in Phongthong prison in order to asses her conditions there. We also had indications from the Deputy Prime Minister of Laos (during his meetings with British officials in London) that the meeting would be private if possible. This would allow Ms. Morris to discuss the case with Samantha within the privilege of a client/lawyer relationship.

In fact, Ms. Morris was only allowed to see Samantha at a formal meeting attended by no less than 10 senior Lao Government officials and 3 representatives of the British Government. Despite asking for further, private access Ms. Morris was told that this would be the only contact that she would be permitted before the trial.

Ms Morris said: “Samantha appeared nervous in this formal environment with so many people present, no doubt it was quite intimidating for her. In the circumstances, I was not prepared to ask her the questions I had envisaged regarding the case. To do so in the presence of members of the Lao Government would have been a breach of my professional duty to Samantha and my ethical code as a barrister. Samantha said that she was coping but that she was anxious about when the trial would take place. Unfortunately, I was not able to give her any re-assurance in this respect as the Lao Government have still not informed us of a trial date.”

“Samantha said that the baby was excited and kicking. Despite her small frame, she was visibly pregnant and sat with her hand protectively over her stomach. Samantha is happy that her mother is coming over today and we hope that her mother will have access to her in prison.”

This morning Ms Morris relayed her experiences to parliamentarians at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Abolition of the Death Penalty. Psychotherapist Mary Canham also testified as to Samantha’s difficult background and fragile mental state.

-ENDS-

For more information please contact Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk 020 7427 1099/ 07931592674.

Notes for Editors:

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

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