By Frank Walker
An Australian of Vietnamese origin has been given the death penalty by a Vietnamese court for trafficking in heroin.
Nguyen Van Chinh, 45, was found guilty of illegally trafficking 1050 grams of heroin and was sentenced to die by firing squad.
Chinh was sentenced in a one-day trial in Ho Chi Minh City on Friday after spending more than two years in jail since his arrest in 2002.
Chinh was born in Vietnam but had permanent residency status in Sydney. A Foreign Affairs official said an Australian consular officer was at the trial and that Chinh had 15 days to lodge an appeal against the death sentence.
Three Vietnamese women involved in the case have been given jail terms ranging from 20 years to life in prison on the same charges.
All four were found guilty of smuggling drugs from Vietnam to Australia on several occasions.
Chinh made frequent trips between Ho Chi Minh City and Sydney and is believed to have links to a Sydney drug gang.
Australian drug enforcement officials have expressed concern about the growing involvement of Sydney-based Vietnamese gangs in trafficking drugs to Australia from Vietnam.
Several Australians of Vietnamese descent have been sentenced to death or given hefty jail terms for heroin trafficking.
Another Vietnamese-Australian, Nguyen Tuong Van, 24, of Melbourne is on death row in Singapore.
A spokesman for Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said last night that he would lodge
an appeal to stay the execution of Chinh as he does with all Australians sentenced to death overseas.