Australian woman death sentence is ‘concerning’

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The federal government is being urged to do more to advocate against capital punishment in Indo-Pacific countries after an Australian woman was sentenced to death in Vietnam. Vietnam-born Australian national Nguyen Thi Huong was found guilty on Wednesday of possessing 36 bars of soap stuffed with 2.8 kg of heroin in her baggage as she was boarding a flight to Australia in December 2014.

The 73-year-old now faces death by lethal injection after the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court ruled the offence “extremely dangerous to the community”.

Law Council of Australia President, Stuart Clark AM, said that while Vietnam’s laws and sovereignty were to be respected, use of the death penalty should always be condemned.

“The case highlights the importance of Australia developing, funding and implementing a whole-of-government strategy for the abolition of the death penalty – with a focus on countries in the Indo-Pacific,” he said in a statement.

The development of such a strategy would be consistent with a recommendation made by the joint standing committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trades in May, Mr Clark said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was “concerned that an Australian citizen has been sentenced to death in Vietnam” but added that under Vietnamese law the woman can appeal the sentence “so there is still some way to go before this legal process concludes”.

“We will continue to provide consular assistance and support to the woman and her family. Universal opposition to capital punishment is a long-established policy of Australian governments,” it said in an email.

Vietnam handed down 47 death sentences in 2015.

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