Vietnam tries 89 for drug trafficking, most face death penalty

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89 people stand trial in the northern province of Quang Ninh on January 3 for drug trafficking and other offences / PHOTO: HAI SAM

Eighty-nine people, a majority of whom face the death penalty, stood a trial in the northern province of Quang Ninh on Friday for drug trafficking and other offences.

The defendants, belonging to four related rings, were accused of bringing a total of over 1.47 tons of heroin, 35 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine, and over 323,400 meth tablets from Laos to Vietnam and from Vietnam to China, according to the hearing held by the provincial People's Court.

The rings were busted following the arrest of Nguyen Thi Bich Ngoc, 54, who had been bringing illegal narcotics from Laos to Vietnam since 2006, in April 2012, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors said the first ring operated in Laos and was led by Sa Van Cau, 40, who remains at large.

The second ring was led by Nguyen Hung Dung, 35, and Song A Lau, 37, to send drugs across the country for consumption.

Nguyen Thanh Tuan and his wife, Nguyen Thanh Hien, both 32, were in charge of the third ring, which smuggled drugs from Vietnam to China.

The fourth ring, led by Nguyen Thi Hoan and Nguyen Thi Doan, also brought drugs to China.

In addition to drug trafficking, the defendants also faced charges including illegally keeping military weapons, illegal business activities, forging documents and bribery.

Prosecutors proposed the death sentence for 66 of them.

The trial, one of the largest of its kind in Vietnam, is slated to conclude on January 22.

Vietnam has some of the world's toughest drug laws. Those convicted of smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine face the death penalty.

The production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal narcotics is also punishable by death.

Vietnam officially switched from the firing squad to lethal injection in November 2011. But it was not until last August did the country execute its first prisoner with the new method due to the unavailability of stipulated drugs.

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