Saturday, 25 October 2008

Two Australians spared in Viet Nam

Viet Nam has granted clemency to two Australian citizens who were sentenced to death for drug offences.

The announcement brings to seven the number of Vietnamese-Australians spared execution since 2003.

Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung announced the decision at a joint media conference with his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd at Parliament House in Canberra on 13 October.

"[B]uilding upon the excellent friendship between our two countries and on humanitarian grounds, I've informed the Prime Minister, the Vietnamese President has decided to grant clemency to two Vietnamese Australians charged with drug trafficking," he said.

The decision spares the lives of Jasmine Luong and Tony Manh, who now face the prospect of life in Viet Nam's notoriously harsh prison system.

Tony Manh applied for clemency after an appeal court confirmed his death sentence in November 2007 for heroin trafficking.

Jasmine Luong was given a death sentence in March 2008 when prosecutors appealed the original life sentence imposed in December last year.

Luong claimed she only agreed to carry the nearly 1.5 kilograms of heroin that was found hidden in her luggage and shoes in order to pay her estranged husband's gambling debts.

Five other Australian citizens in Viet Nam have had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment since 2003, all for drug-related offences.

In each case the Australian government has supported applications for clemency and made representations appealing for the sentences to be commuted.

'Close ties'
During the media conference, both leaders paid tribute to the ties between the two countries, saying bilateral trade was now worth about $7 billion per year.

Dung said through an interpreter that the two countries had developed "good cooperation in such areas as politics, diplomacy, economics, trade, investment, tourism, education and training, culture, defence, security and many others".

Related stories:
Viet Nam: Life, and death, sentences for drugs -- 30 April 2008
Drug penalty violates international law -- 6 May, 2007
Viet Nam death penalty "not deterring drugs" -- 25 November, 2006
Another Australian spared in Viet Nam – 19 November 2006
To begin, good news in Viet Nam -- 18 February 2006


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