Mon, Aug 03, 2009 - Page 4 News List

Fate of UK citizen in Laotian jail could be the ‘black hole’

THE OBSERVER , LONDON

A Briton who is believed to have fathered a woman’s baby in a Laos prison to save her from a death sentence has gone missing from the jail, prompting fears for his safety.

John Watson was removed from Phonthong prison last week, said the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which admits it has lost track of the whereabouts of the 47-year-old from Bradford, northeast England.

Welfare groups said he had been secretly taken to a “punishment prison” in the capital, Vientiane, and his life was in danger.

Watson is understood to have artificially impregnated Samantha Orobator, 20, with a syringe while they were in Phonthong prison together, so she could avoid the death penalty.

She is expected to be flown home this week to serve her sentence in the UK.

Watson was taken from the jail by Laotian officials shortly before the arrival of UK Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant last Tuesday.

The officials refuse to tell British diplomats where Watson is.

Inmates said he was taken to the notorious “black hole of Samkhe,” an underground punishment cell in Samkhe prison.

A welfare group told the Foreign Prisoners Support Service that the jail was renowned for torture.

“John said he would not survive if he was transferred. It’s ironic that John gave a life to save a life and now his own life is seriously in danger,” said Kay Danes, who runs the service. “He has saved Samantha’s life. Nobody gets transferred from Phonthong unless it’s a punishment. Pro-democracy protesters go there and never come out.”

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