Vietnam mass drugs trial sentences 30 to death, jails dozens

HANOI Mon Jan 20, 2014 6:06am EST

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HANOI (Reuters) - Judges in northern Vietnam condemned 30 people to death and jailed dozens more on Monday for trafficking over 12 tons of heroin, delivering the verdict outdoors in what was the Communist country's biggest-ever drugs trial.

All 89 defendants were found guilty of trafficking the heroin between 2006 and 2012 and each appeared flanked by two police officers at the mass trial in Quang Ninh province, which was held in the yard of a detention centre, rather than a courtroom.

Thirteen received life in jail and 46 were given either prison terms of up to 20 years, or warnings, the government said in a statement on its Internet site. (baodientu.chinhphu.vn)

Vietnam has long been used as a connecting point for moving heroin between Laos, Myanmar and China to other Asian countries and Australia. Its courts give harsh punishments to traffickers, which until recently included death by firing squad. It now uses lethal injection.

The trial began on January 3 and prosecutors had initially sought death sentence for 34 people. The drugs were trafficked between China, Laos and Vietnam in various types, including heroin and synthetic drugs.

Vietnam had about 180,000 drug addicts as at September 2013, according to government statistics.

Trafficking of more than 100 grams (3.5 oz) of heroin is punishable by death or life imprisonment in Vietnam.

(Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Editing by Martin Petty and Ron Popeski)

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