Wednesday, May 13, 2009

How's That for Injustice

This story (via) borders on the unbelievable, but it appears to be legit.

A 20-year old British woman named Samantha Orobator was arrested in Laos for allegedly smuggling heroin into the country. She has been imprisoned, awaiting trial, ever since. If convicted, she faces death by firing squad. In the intervening five months, she got pregnant. Given that she's been in jail the whole time, the logical conclusion is that she's been raped while stashed away in "one of Asia's most squalid jails."

She's been given a choice:

The 20-year-old goes on trial this week and will be asked to declare publicly that she was not raped in Phonthong prison, one of Asia's most squalid jails.

If Orobator co-operates, she will be transferred from Laos to a UK prison under a new treaty signed between the two countries on Thursday. If not, her trial will be postponed and she will return to jail in Laos.

If she faces trial again after the birth of her child, she will not have the immunity from execution that pregnancy gives her under the Laos penal code.
In other words, if she's willing to lie about being raped, she can save her life. How civilized. That would never happen in the United States, would it? Oh:
In 1987, a jury in Billings, Mont., found that an 18-year-old named Jimmy Ray Bromgard had raped an 8-year-old girl. On the witness stand and afterward, Mr. Bromgard insisted he was innocent.

Judge G. Todd Baugh said this suggested a lack of remorse, and he sentenced Mr. Bromgard to 40 years.

In prison, Mr. Bromgard declined to participate in group therapy sessions for sex offenders.

'I would have had to admit my guilt,' he said. 'I'd rather sit there in prison for all my life than admit my guilt.'

That decision did not sit well with the parole board, which denied his application for an early release in 2000, citing his refusal to take part in the sessions.

It turns out Mr. Bromgard was telling the truth. DNA evidence cleared him, and he was released from prison last month. He is now 33 and spent about half of his life in prison.
No, no, I'm not saying one is as bad as the other. But they both suck pretty bad.

So who is the father of Orobator's unborn child? The Laotian authorties have a theory:
Laotian leaders are sensitive to suggestions Orobator might have been raped in jail.

'We don't want the world to blame us,' Mr Nuanthasing said.

Asked who fathered the baby, Mr Nuanthasing said: 'It is a mystery - maybe it is a baby from the sky.'
Hey, it's worked before.

1 comment:

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.