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Egypt: British Woman Sentenced for Carrying Painkillers

(Apr. 2, 2018) On December 26, 2017, the Criminal Court of Safaga, a town on the coast of the Red Sea, sentenced a British woman to three years in prison and fined her 100,000 Egyptian pounds (EGP) (about US$5,611) for the possession of the narcotic painkiller Tramadol. (Magdy Samaan & James Masters, British Tourist Gets 3-Year Sentence in Egypt on Drug Smuggling Charge, CNN (Dec. 12, 2017).)

Facts of the Case

On October 9, 2017, Laura Plummer was arrested at the Hurghada International Airport on the Red Sea after law enforcement officials found 290 tablets of Tramadol in her luggage. Plummer claimed that she was bringing the painkiller to her Egyptian husband, who suffers from back pain, and that the drug is legal in the United Kingdom. Plummer asserted that she had no previous knowledge that prescription painkillers such as Tramadol are illegal under Egyptian law, adding that the UK did not issue a warning to its citizens about the illegality of the drug until after her arrest. (Id.)


In October 2017, the Public Prosecution referred Plummer to the criminal court, charging her with the smuggling and possession of illegal drugs. On December 26, 2017, the Criminal Court of Safaga rendered its decision in Criminal Case No. 12329 of 2017, finding Plummer guilty of articles 2 and 38(1) of Law 182 of 1960 as amended by Law 122 of 1989. (Mohammed Al-Sayyed Suleiman, Reasoning in the Court Decision for Sentencing “Tramadol Tourist” to 3 Years, AL-MASRY AL-YOUM (Feb. 9, 2018).)

Article 2 prohibits any individual from smuggling, producing, exporting, possessing, owning, purchasing, or selling illegal narcotics or acting as a mediator in those transactions, except in the circumstances and conditions determined by Law 182. Article 38(1) stipulates that anyone who possesses, acquires, buys, delivers, transports, cultivates, produces, extracts, separates, or manufactures any narcotic substances without the intention of trading in them or taking or personally using them in any circumstances other than those authorized by law is punishable by 3 to 10 years of imprisonment with hard labor and a fine of 50,000 to 200,000 pounds. (Law 122 of 1989 Amending Law 182 of 1960, AL-JARIDAH AL-RASMIYAH [OFFICIAL GAZETTE], vol. 36, 4 July 1989 (in Arabic).)

Court Decision

The court acknowledged that the accused had never been previously arrested for carrying illegal drugs while entering the country. It also stated that it had not found any evidence of a relationship between the accused and drug clients inside the country and believed that the accused had brought the tablets without an intention to smuggle or sell them inside the country. Accordingly, the court decided to convict the accused only for the offense of illegal possession of narcotics and dismiss the smuggling charge. Furthermore, the court declared that it believed Plummer’s claim of being ignorant of the legal prohibition on those tablets but stated that such ignorance did not exempt her from legal liability for possessing the illegal drugs. (Reasoning in the Court Decision for Sentencing “Tramadol Tourist” to 3 years, supra.)

Appeals Process

The decision was issued by the court of first instance and is not final. A defendant can file an appeal before the court of appeal under article 402 of the Law of Criminal Procedure, which grants the right of appeal to a defendant imprisoned in a misdemeanor case. According to article 406, the appeal must be filed within 10 days from the date the first instance court rendered its decision. (Law of Criminal Procedure No. 150 of 1950 and Its Amendments (in Arabic).) Media reports indicate that Plummer’s lawyers have lodged an appeal. (See, e.g. British Woman Convicted of Smuggling Painkillers in Egypt, CBS NEWS (Dec. 26, 2017).)