by Oge Okonkwo
For the crime of drug trafficking, a 31-year-old Nigerian man (name withheld) and a Thai woman, Suracha Chaimongkol, were on Wednesday, sentenced to death in Vietnam.
The death sentence was passed in a Vietnam court, after the Nigerian was found guilty of smuggling 3.4 kilograms of methamphetamines from Qatar to Vietnam.
Vietnam, the communist country’s drug laws, are one of the strictest in the world, and anyone found guilty of attempting to smuggle more than 100 grams of heroin or cocaine can face the death penalty.
PM News reports:
According to AFP, a court in Vietnam, sentenced the Thai citizen, Suracha Chaimongkol, to death after she was caught carrying two kilograms (4.4 pounds) of cocaine, the official Thanh Nien newspaper said.
The drugs were discovered hidden inside two photograph albums when the 31-year-old graduate landed at Ho Chi Minh City’s airport in October last year after taking a flight from Brazil.
The identity of the Nigerian was not immediately disclosed.
Convictions and sentences are revealed only by local media which is strictly under state control in the communist nation.
Suracha told the court she did not know she was carrying the drugs, but said she had been paid to bring the photograph albums to Vietnam, according to the Thanh Nien report.
After a two-year hiatus in carrying out capital punishment due to problems procuring chemicals for lethal injections, Vietnam executed its first prisoner by the method in August.
The country currently has more than 586 prisoners on death row, at least 117 of whom meet all the criteria for immediate execution, media reports have said.
Although the country does not release statistics on executions, rights group Amnesty International recorded five executions in 2011 and said 23 new death sentences were handed out that year, mainly to drug traffickers.
Foreigners frequently fall foul of the nation’s stiff drug laws.
In June last year, a Thai design student was handed a death penalty for trafficking three kilos of methamphetamine, while in October, a 61-year-old Filipina received the death penalty for smuggling five kilograms of methamphetamines.
Meanwhile, two British women arrested on suspicion of trying to smuggle cocaine worth £1.5m out of Peru have been formally charged, prosecutors have said, skynews.com reported.
Michaella McCollum Connolly and Melissa Reid, both 20, were moved to a detention centre in Lima after appearing before the District Prosecutor on Tuesday.
The women face a maximum prison sentence of 15 years if convicted, the prosecutor’s office in Callao added.
McCollum Connolly and Reid were detained in Lima last week, accused of trying to smuggle millions of dollars worth of cocaine into Europe.
The two women have protested their innocence, saying they were forced to carry items in their luggage at gunpoint.
Peruvian officials say the women were en route to Madrid and Majorca on August 6 when airport officials discovered almost 12kgs (26lbs) of cocaine hidden inside food packages in their luggage.
The cocaine was said to have a street value of some $2m (£1.3m).
They will eventually be taken to the high security women’s prison Ancon 2, north of Lima.
Sky News was given rare access to the prison, which is situated in the desert.
Inside, Sarah, a mother-of-two from Croydon, in south London, is serving a six-year sentence for trying to smuggle cocaine into Spain.
Speaking to Sky News she said: “To tell you the truth, to me, all the time that I’ve been here, it’s like being in the Devil’s House.
“You don’t know when you’re gonna leave this place, for those girls, caught with so much, they could spend a long time here.”
Commenting on the women’s current condition in custody, Peter Madden, the lawyer for McCollum Connolly said: “They’re both in a holding cell, there are two other women there, but they haven’t gotten anything to eat today.
“They haven’t been offered any food and to me that is unacceptable. The conditions inside the holding cells are pretty grim.
“They are expected to lie almost on the floor, there is a sort of sponge-type bed which is just not acceptable, there are no blankets, it’s not clean, and the most important thing is that they haven’t actually been offered any food today, and it didn’t look as if they were going to be.”