A woman from the UK has been jailed for three years after being convicted of attempting to smuggle prescription painkillers into Egypt.
Sales assistant Laura Plummer, from the city of Hull, was stopped at Hurghada International Airport in October carrying 300 Tramadol tablets in her luggage.
The 33-year-old had said she brought the pills into the country for her Egyptian boyfriend, who claims to suffer from debilitating back pain.
Following her arrest, Plummer attempted to tell Egyptian investigators she had made “an honest mistake”, and was completely unaware it was against the law to bring the drug into the country.
Tramadol is a prescription painkiller that is legal in many countries around the world, but is banned in Egypt, where the drug is commonly abused by addicts.
As well as a three-year jail term, an Egyptian court also handed Plummer a fine of the equivalent of nearly $5,600.
Plummer wept in the dock yesterday after “accidentally” pleading guilty to charges of drug possession and smuggling after a mix-up with an interpreter, before her trail was adjourned until a new translator could be found.
The Briton’s lawyers had argued that she should be found not guilty, as Tramadol is not listed as illegal in the UK travel advisory.
They later said they would appeal her sentence, which she will be required to serve in a jail in Cairo where prison guards are said to regularly rape female inmates.
“For someone to be found guilty of drug smuggling they have to be aware that they are possessing narcotics,” said Mohamed Othman, Plummer’s lawyer.
“Laura did not know that what she was carrying was a narcotic. This is pursuant to that tramadol 50mg is a painkiller in her country, England. When she brought the tramadol, she believed it was a painkiller.”
Plummer’s family fear she will not be able to cope with life in the prison, which has been described by UK media as a “hellhole”.
Laura’s sister Jayne said she will in all likelihood die if she is forced to serve the whole of the three-year term to which she was sentenced.
Speaking with the Mirror, Jayne said: “She is not the strongest person, she’s already having a nervous breakdown and is being kicked and punched in the holding prison.
“We think the sentence is absolutely disgusting. We are devastated and we are speechless.”
While Tramadol is legal if prescribed by a medical professional in the UK, questions have been raised as to why Plummer was in possession of such a high quantity of tablets, which would not typically be dispensed in such high numbers.
The small pills, which are used illicitly across most sections of Egyptian society, have become the country’s recreational drug of choice, overtaking both heroin and cannabis.
Prescribed legitimately to fight moderate to severe pain, the drug is abused in Egypt on account of its ability to boost alertness and improve male sexual performance.