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Vietnam: Death Penalty For Drug Smugglers
Thirty people have been sentenced to death in Vietnam for smuggling more than 12 tons of heroin after the country's biggest ever drugs trial.
Dozens more convicted of trafficking were handed lengthy jail terms.
There were so many accused that the proceedings, which lasted 17 days, had to be held outside in the yard of a detention centre rather than a court room.
All 89 defendants, each flanked by two police officers, were found guilty of trafficking the heroin between 2006 and 2012 at the mass trial in Quang Ninh province, which borders China.
Vietnam has long been used as a stop-off point for drug smugglers.
Harsh punishments are given by the courts for those convicted of trafficking, which until recently included death by firing squad. It now uses lethal injection.
Trafficking of more than 100g (3.5oz) of heroin is punishable by death or life imprisonment in Vietnam.
Presiding judge Ngo Duc said: "This was Vietnam's largest ever trial in terms of defendants, the number of death penalties given out and the amount of heroin involved.
"Because of the large number of defendants and the seriousness of the case, the trial was held at the prison."
Investigators said the defendants belonged to four international smuggling rings responsible for trafficking heroin and other drugs from neighbouring Laos into Vietnam and China since 2006.
The drugs operations were broken up by police last August, with mass arrests and the seizure of large quantities of illegal drugs.
They also confiscated luxury cars and dozens of guns during the raid, state media reported.
It is estimated the country currently has more than 700 prisoners on death row, many for drug offences.
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