A British woman was sentenced to three years in jail for smuggling painkillers into Egypt. Laura Plummer, a 33-year-old from Hull, a town in Northern England, was flying to vacation with her Egyptian partner in October when authorities found 300 Tramadol tablets in her suitcase. They are legal in the United Kingdom with a prescription, but not in Egypt. Plummer told authorities that the painkillers were for her partner's bad back; the two had planned a holiday in the resort town of Hurghada on the Red Sea.
The BBC reported Tuesday that her lawyers would file an appeal. The family has said that Plummer did not know that the drugs were illegal and that she was just "daft." Many in Egypt are addicted to the opiate. Plummer maintains that she was clueless about the law, and didn't even try to hide the pills, packing them in their pharmacy bag. "I didn't even look in bag," Plummer told the BBC. "I can't tell you how stupid I feel."
Local officials have said that ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law, and the sentencing judge would seem to agree. Smuggling drugs can be punishable by death in the country, but Plummer is set to serve a three-year jail term instead.
After the sentence, Rachel Plummer, Laura's sister, spoke with the BBC. She said that the family has rested its hopes on the appeal. "We're just hoping. Even half of that would be better. Anything less than three years. She doesn't deserve that," Rachel told the BBC. "My mum's obviously devastated. She's out there by herself."
In earlier reports, the cell that Plummer was being held in was described as the size of a bedroom in the UK, but with 25 people in it. She told the BBC that she was claustrophobic, but that the other inmates were trying to look after her.
Her representative in the British Parliament has spoken on her behalf, but it's unclear what positive effect that will have. "Laura, most of all, will be absolutely devastated. She's not been well lately, she's sleep deprived and she's been very anxious," MP Karl Turner told the BBC.
Turner did acknowledge that she was naive but that she was honest and hardworking too. "I think it's a damning indictment about good sense and fair play," Turner said. "[She was] going to visit her partner in Egypt, taking what she thought was a painkiller and no more than that," he told the BBC.
"It clearly is a banned substance and whilst we must respect the law of other countries there must be good sense and fair play as well," Turner added.
The Daily Mail reported that a possible appeal could take up to one month to schedule. The process could be complicated, though, by Plummer's apparent guilty plea, entered into based a bad translation. She was asked, "You are accused of smuggling and possessing Tramadol to Egypt?” Plummer responded yes, which resulted in her plea being recorded as guilty, something her lawyer will contest.
"She meant that she is admitting that she had the Tramadol, but not admitting of being guilty. The judge jumped to the conclusion that she confesses before clarifying that she understood the question and this is worrying,” Dia al-Bassal, Plummer's lawyer told The Telegraph.
Until her sentence is reduced, Plummer's family will keep worrying. Her mother, Roberta Sinclair, told The Daily Mail, "She's the kindest person... I was worried about her before, [when she was] in the police station. I'm even more worried now she's in actual prison with real criminals. I feel sick — I'm so frightened for her."
Plummer's hope rests on that appeal.