Vietnam sentences eight drug traffickers to death

A VIETNAMESE court has sentenced eight members of a smuggling gang to death for trafficking heroin and five others to life in prison, state media said Tuesday.

The court in the northern province of Hoa Binh also jailed 17 other defendants — all Vietnamese members of the same gang — to between six and 20 years in prison after a two-week trial that ended Monday, the state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper said.

The ring had smuggled more than 200 kilograms (440 pounds) of heroin into Vietnam before their arrest in 2011, the report said, without specifying where the heroin was sourced or how long the group had operated.

Communist Vietnam has some of the world’s toughest anti-drug laws. Anyone found guilty of possessing more than 600 grams (21 ounces) of heroin, or more than 20 kilograms of opium, can face the death penalty.

Convictions and sentences are usually revealed only by local media, which is strictly under state control.

The Vietnamese rulings come after Indonesia’s execution of foreign drug offenders on Sunday triggered international condemnation.

Brazil and the Netherlands recalled their ambassadors after Jakarta put to death two of their citizens along with four other drug offenders from Vietnam, Malawi, Nigeria and Indonesia.

Vietnamese state media reported that Hanoi had requested clemency for the executed citizen, but the official reaction was unclear.

Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the UN human rights agency, said she was concerned by the recent spate of death penalty sentences for drug convictions in South East Asia.

“We call on Vietnam not to carry out these executions, to ensure judicial review of the sentences, and to consider elimination of the death penalty for drug-related crimes,” she added.

In January 2014 authorities in Vietnam sentenced 30 drug smugglers to death in the country’s largest-ever narcotics case, involving scores of defendants and nearly two tonnes of heroin.

Vietnam has also sentenced dozens of foreigners to death for drug offences, but it has been decades since a foreign national was executed in the country.

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