Laura Plummer
Laura Plummer

A British woman has been sentenced to three years in an Egyptian prison for bringing a controlled substance used for pain medication into the North African country.

Laura Plummer, 33, was also ordered to pay a fine of more than $5,600. The woman has been detained since October 9 when she arrived in Egypt carrying a large quantity of the painkiller – known as tramadol – that she said was meant to treat her Egyptian husband's severe back pain.

Tramadol is legal in many countries, but in Egypt, it is illegal for a private individual to sell the drug, according to CNN. Plummer, who was arrested with 290 tablets, was charged with drug possession and smuggling.

"For someone to be found guilty of drug smuggling they have to be aware that they are possessing narcotics," Plummer's lawyer, Mohamed Othman, told Reuters, criticizing the court's decision.

"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."

Her lawyers also said she misunderstood a question in court, giving a response that came across as a confession.

Omar Caboo
Plummer's Egyptian husband Omar Caboo

Plummer's sister, Jayne Sinclair, has described the Egyptian prison conditions as a "living hell."

"Laura isn't the strongest of people, she's on the verge of a nervous breakdown, covered in scabs," Sinclair said, The Telegraph reported.

"She's been bitten from head to foot in mosquito bites and she's like a ghost ... Her skin is translucent and the muscles in her legs don't work - they're like jelly," Plummer's concerned sister explained.

Although the three-year sentence is a blow to the family, which has been fighting for Plummer's release, lawyers previously said she could potentially face the "death penalty".

A spokesperson for the British Foreign Office said they are supporting Plummer and her family through the ordeal.

"We will continue to provide assistance to Laura and her family following the court ruling in Egypt, and our embassy is in regular contact with the Egyptian authorities," the spokesperson said, according to Sky News.

Plummer and Caboo
Plummer and Caboo

Discussing Plummer's relationship with her Egyptian husband, Omar Caboo, her sister said the couple had merely signed a document allowing them to sleep in an apartment together. 

The document is known as "urfi" in the country, a customary marriage contract among Sunni Muslims that is done by a sheikh in the presence of a guardian and two witnesses. A dowry amount is also presented. The contract is not officially registered with the state, and thus not recognized by the government as a legal marriage.

Plummer's sister added that their "marriage means nothing" - and that Caboo already has a Muslim wife, whom she claims Plummer has met. 

"He has a Muslim wife and they only signed documents in Egypt that allow them to live together when she goes to stay. He doesn't have a passport so can't come to England," she said in November.

The imprisoned woman's brother previously said he fears his sister won't survive Egyptian prison.

"She has a phobia of using anybody else’s toilet, so let alone sharing a toilet and a floor with everybody else. That will be awful for her, it’ll be traumatizing," he said.

"I don’t think she’s tough enough to survive it."

Tramadol is considered to be the most abused drug in Egypt and is sometimes used as a heroin substitute, according to The Guardian

In August, Egypt's drug control fund received more calls about tramadol than any other drug.