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British woman returns to Pakistani jail with newborn

By Shaan Khan, CNN
updated 2:26 PM EDT, Fri November 2, 2012
A British woman arrested for drug trafficking in Pakistan, has returned to her jail cell despite concerns for her baby's life.
A British woman arrested for drug trafficking in Pakistan, has returned to her jail cell despite concerns for her baby's life.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Khadija Shah, 25, was arrested while six months pregnant and gave birth to a girl in Rawalpindi
  • Shah, accused of drug trafficking, was put back in jail three days after the birth
  • Lawyer criticizes care that baby is getting in jail, calls for bail for new mother
  • Shah denies trafficking, but anti-narcotics official says the case against her is solid

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- A British woman who was arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking in Pakistan remains in jail with her child, despite concerns about the baby's welfare.

Khadija Shah, 25, of Birmingham gave birth to her daughter, Malaika, a few weeks ago at a hospital in the city of Rawalpindi, an hour's drive from the capital, and was escorted back to jail with the infant only three days later, to the shock and dismay of her lawyer.

"The baby has had constant diarrhea, and Khadija complained that jail attendants are giving her strong medicine that is lethal for such a young child," Shahzad Akbar, legal counsel for Shah, told CNN.

"She would have been able to look after her child if she was granted bail," he said.

CNN has attempted to reach the jail for comment about the claims, but officials have not yet responded to calls. However, jail officials have said in media reports that the baby is receiving proper care.

Read more: $2.6 million in cocaine found in British woman's luggage, Indonesians say

Shah, who denies the charges against her, appeared in court Thursday with her infant daughter.

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Grasping the child, and barely able to speak through tears, she said she didn't want to give up her daughter, despite the conditions in the jail.

"No, I can't give her to anyone, I can't give her up," Shah told CNN before she was returned to her cell. "It's not that bad," she said of the conditions there.

Still, covering her face and hiding her tears, Shah conceded, "I'm worried about her. ..."

In Pakistan's legal system, mothers can keep their children in jail with them while their cases are heard -- a process that can take years.

Shah, arrested on drug charges in May, was allegedly found carrying more than $5 million worth of heroin before boarding a flight to England from Islamabad.

Read more: Pakistani officials seize drugs shaped like onions

She was six months pregnant and traveling with her 5-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter when airport security detained her at Islamabad airport after a "tipoff," according to her lawyer.

"Shah's (older) children were also incarcerated with her until recently, when they were turned over to their grandparents," Akbar said.

Col. Tauqeer, the commander of the Anti Narcotics Force responsible for Shah's arrest, told CNN that Shah was apprehended after spot checking.

"It was routine checking when we found more than 63 kilos of heroin sewn into embroidered cloth in her bag," Tauqeer said.

The Anti Narcotics Force "followed procedure," according to Tauqeer, and Shah now faces life in prison or the death penalty if convicted of the charges against her.

According to the Anti Narcotics Force, 306 people, including foreign nationals, have been convicted in drug-related cases so far in 2012, and 37 tons of drugs have been seized across the country.

"There are no weaknesses in our case," according to Tauqeer, who said Shah had made two prior trips to Islamabad, during which she probably transported drugs to England.

He said she told law enforcement officers that she had no relatives in Pakistan and that she was there on vacation.

"First she said she had no family, then her relatives arrived from Lahore to take the children; then she said she was married, and (it) turned out she was divorced. There are too many discrepancies in her statements," Tauqeer said.

Shah said that she had no knowledge of carrying drugs and that she was given a bag by a friend to take home to England, her lawyer told CNN. He also denies Tauqeer's claims about prior trips and any discrepancies in Shah's story.

Now, as Shah tends to her infant daughter in jail, her other children are in the UK; taken back, her lawyer says, by their grandmother.

But there is little chance Shah will join them anytime soon. A trial awaits her in Pakistan.

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