Thursday, 3 July 2008

Plea to spare drug traffickers

THE Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith, has urged Vietnam to spare two Australians convicted of drug trafficking from execution by firing squad.

Mr Smith said during a visit that he was assured by the Vietnamese Prime Minister, Nguyen Tan Dung, that the Government was giving "careful and proper" consideration to appeals for clemency made by the two.

Both are Australian citizens of Vietnamese origin, sentenced to die for drug trafficking.

"I've made the point that Australia supports those bids of clemency," Mr Smith said.

The names of the two Australians were not available.

At least four Vietnamese-Australians convicted of drug trafficking have had their death sentences commuted after the Australian Government asked that they not be executed.

Vietnam has not executed any Australians for drug offences.

Several Australians of Vietnamese origin have been arrested in recent months for suspected drug trafficking, including three accused of trying to smuggle heroin onto planes.

Mr Smith said police forces from the countries could work together to help prevent crimes.

"I've made the point to the Prime Minister that Australia does not condone narcotic offences - on the contrary, we regard these as very serious," Mr Smith said.

He had finished a two-day visit to Vietnam.

Vietnam has some of the world's toughest drug laws.

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