Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Calling for National Attention for Samantha Orobator

Don't be surprised if you don't recognize this woman's name. I found out about her over at Shakesville. She is facing death by firing squad in Laos, charged with drug trafficking. Melissa of Shakesville has this to say:

Orobator's family and friends say she has no history of using or trafficking or being in any way involved with drugs—and since arriving at the prison where she is being held, Orobator has become pregnant. Anna Morris, of the London-based human rights group Reprieve, who are advocating on Orobator's behalf, says: "She became pregnant in prison. We are concerned that it may not have been consensual and we are concerned that someone who finds herself in prison at 20 is subject to exploitation." Honestly, my stomach just churns at the thought of what Orobator has been through.

At this point, Laos is saying they probably won't execute Orobator because she is pregnant, but she hasn't even been tried yet. She doesn't have a local attorney, and Morris is "the first British lawyer who has asked for access to her." Her trial has been scheduled for next week.
There is currently no national coverage on Orobator's story. Perhaps not surprisingly is that Orobator is not a white woman, and thus the media feels her story is inconsequential. Even if she is guilty of drug trafficking, not affording her media attention is absolutely racist, and not allowing a lawyer to speak with her or even have a trial before deciding on the penalty illustrates how some people are viewed as expendable. Her treatment over the past few months is no excuse, guilty or no.

Spread the word. Demand attention for this woman.


securoseal said...

There are a lot of assumptions about this case. Most reports don't ask the question about the facts that lead to her arrest in the first place. Currently, no one in the press has access to the 'facts' because no one has been given access to her (save for the consulate - which will never interfere in another country's sovereign legal process).

In fact, only these allegations are known at this time:
1. Drugs were found in luggage during transit through Laos.
2. The authorities have stated that the luggage belonged to her.
3. The quantity is sufficient to incur the death penalty.
4. She was locked up in a local prison facility, initially without consular assistance, then without legal assistance. Her family was not informed.
5. She denies the charges, but other than that, zero information has been released.
6. Legal counsel from Reprieve was denied access, despite being issued a visa. Only after international pressure was she allowed to pick a 'local lawyer' from a preselected list. When Reprieve was given access, it was in the presence of government officials - which meant nothing meaningful could be discussed with the detainee.
7. Authorities intend to move her trial date forward. Normally, it takes years for such a trial to be heard, but in an effort to reduce the case's profile, the authorities wish to short list it. Moving the date will make it very difficult for the defence to prepare. If they are heard at all.
8. She is pregnant & it has been reported that this happened while she was detained in a women's only prison.
9. News reports suggest she is being coerced into saying the pregnancy was voluntary.

In many countries, there is no presumption of innocence in drug smuggling cases. Laws in Oceana, Asia, the Middle East (among other areas) shift the burden of proving innocence onto the person charged if the authorities can prove possession. Any luggage can be tampered with. If it has a zip, it can be opened with a pen and resealed in seconds. Without a trace. Even if it is locked. It could happen to you.

Seeing is believing:

Luggage transit areas in airports are inherently unsafe and affected by criminal activity. It happens all the time and its not just Asia. Its in the west too. Its not an exaggeration - its a fact.

Read about it:

If it happened to you, would that make you a smuggler? Think about it next time you pack your luggage and check it in. Think about it next time you read a news story about a bag just like yours.

Chances are, if it does happen, you won't have a clue until you are in cuffs and the assumptions are written next to your name.