A British woman has been sentenced to three years in prison in Egypt after mistakenly confessing to smuggling drugs.
Laura Plummer, 33, from Hull, was arrested at Hurghada airport in October carrying 290 Tramadol tablets in her suitcase for her Egyptian husband whom she said suffered from back problems.
The strong opioid painkiller is available on prescription in the UK but is illegal in Egypt, where it is often abused as a recreational drug.
The hearing lasted half a day and the judge at Safaga Criminal Court in the Red Sea resort deliberated for an hour before returning his verdict.
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The 33-year-old shop assistant sobbed as police guards led her in handcuffs back to her cell on Tuesday.
“I just can’t believe it, she couldn’t do three months, now it’s three years,” Roberta Sinclair, Ms Plummer’s mother, told the Telegraph.
“I’m in shock, I’m really in shock,” she added. “She (Ms Plummer) can’t believe it either. She said ‘mum, there must be a mistake’. It’s not fair. She wanted to help, he is the kindest person.”
Ms Plummer’s defence team said that they will appeal the decision as soon as the judge submits his reasoning, which could take up to 60 days.
Standing before the judge in court on Christmas Day, Ms Plummer was asked: “You are accused of smuggling and possessing Tramadol to Egypt?”
Misunderstanding the question, she replied “yes” and the judge then instructed the session clerk to record that she had confessed.
But when the defence interpretor later explained the question again, she denied she was guilty.
The case was adjourned for a day after Ms Plummer became too distraught to continue.
In court on Tuesday, her legal team attempted to clear up the confusion, which they said was down to an inexperienced interpretor.
They also submitted to the court her clean criminal record, a character reference from her employer, a letter from the Foreign Office indicating that Tramadol did not appear on Egypt’s travel advice on banned medicines, as well as a medical report for her husband showing he suffered back problems.
Omar Abdel Azim, her husband, had testified before the court earlier on Tuesday morning, saying he had suffered from a herniated disc for five years. “I loved her (Ms Plummer) and she loved me.
“She is my wife and she wants to relieve my pain. She had brought me ointments before,” he told the judge. “Last time, she was visiting, my pain had increased. She was trying to help.”
Mr Dia al-Bassal, Ms Plummer’s lawyer, said there was a lack of criminal intent because she was unaware that the pills were banned in Egypt. He said the court could also not prove she brought them into the country to sell them.
“It’s not logic that a British citizen would trade five boxes of Tramadol. The ticket she brought to come to Egypt cost more than the value of the Tramadol she was caught with,” Mr Bassal said.
The family has previously said Ms Plummer had no idea that what she doing was illegal and was just "daft".
They said she did not try to hide the medicine, which she had been given by a friend, and she thought it was a joke when she was pulled over by officials after arriving for a holiday with her partner.
Mrs Sinclair said her daughter was being held in terrible conditions in a cell with no beds, sharing with up to 20 other women.
Her family had been told that she could face up to 25 years in jail, with one lawyer even mentioning the death penalty.
Reacting to news of the sentence, Karl Turner, MP for the family’s constituency Hull East, said the court’s decision was "devastating".
"Laura, most of all, will be absolutely devastated," he said, "She’s not been well lately, she’s sleep deprived and she’s been very anxious.
"I think it’s a damning indictment about good sense and fair play."