A court in Vietnam has sentenced a 73-year-old woman to death for attempting to traffic drugs. The Vietnam-born Australian woman tried to smuggle heroin by hiding it in soap bars.
The Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court in southern Vietnam sentenced an Australian woman for possession of large quantity of heroin with intention to smuggle it outside the country. She was intercepted at the airport and the drugs were recovered. The country hasn’t affixed a date for her execution owing to pending legal procedures including a possible appeal.
The Ho Chi Minh City Police newspaper reported that the Vietnam-born Australian woman was identified as Nguyen Thi Huong. She was caught boarding a flight to Australia in December 2014 with 36 bars of soap, reported SBS. The customs officials found the large quantity of soaps suspicious and ordered the woman to undergo a more thorough inspection. When officials cut open the soap bars, they found packets of heroin that were neatly stashed within them.
The soap bars may have been hollowed out and packets of the drug hidden in the pockets. There is some discrepancy about the total quantity of heroin that was recovered from the soap bars. However, even a small amount of the highly illegal narcotic is reason for immediate arrest and prosecution. The incident happened in 2014 and somewhere between 1.8 and 2.8 kg of heroin was seized from the woman.
During the trial, Huong insisted upon her innocence and maintained she knew nothing about the drugs that she was transporting outside the country. Evidently, Huong told the court during the trial that a woman named Helen had given her the soap bars as gifts while they were on a trip to the coastal city of Vung Tau and that she was not aware of the contents of the soap bars, reported International Business Times.
Local media added that the woman was carrying the many soap bars to Australia with the intention of distributing them to others. However, the court rubbished the claims for a single reason. Huong couldn’t prove the woman who gave her the soaps was a real person. Apparently the entire trial lasted for less than half a day, before the woman was sentenced.
During the ruling, the court noted that the offence she was committing was “extremely dangerous to the community” and found her guilty, reported ABC News. The woman has now been placed on death row. Vietnam does extend the provision of appealing the sentence. However, it is not clear if the woman could stand a chance of having her sentence reduced from death to life in prison. Nguyen Thi Huong is a 73-year-old woman, but the country doesn’t offer leniency to drug traffickers because of their gender or age.
The country executes its death row inmates with lethal injections. Quite recently, Arizona halted the practice of executing its death row inmates because it ran out of chemicals that are used to prepare the multi-stage lethal injection combination.
According to Vietnamese law, the woman has about 15 days to appeal against the death sentence. The country has one of the toughest drug laws in the world. Possession of even minute quantities of narcotics is punishable by death. According to current laws, possession of 100 grams and above of the drug is punishable by death.
While Vietnam doesn’t oppose the death penalty, the woman’s home country Australia does. Releasing an official statement about the woman, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade noted,
“We are concerned that an Australian citizen has been sentenced to death in Vietnam. According to Vietnamese law, the accused can appeal the sentence so there is still some way to go before this legal process concludes. We will continue to provide consular assistance and support to the woman and her family.”
Death by lethal injection is a fairly new concept in Vietnam. The country adopted the technique in late 2013. Earlier, death row inmates would be executed using firing squads, reported Stuff.
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