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Aussie reprieved from Vietnam death sentence
By Jano Gibson - August 23, 2005 - 1:15PM

An Australian drug trafficker on death row in Vietnam has had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment, Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer said today.

Tran Van Thanh, 40, was sentenced to death in November last year for illegal trading of heroin.

The decision by Vietnam President Tran Duc Luonto to grant the Australian a reprieve follows direct appeals by Prime Minister John Howard and Mr Downer.

The President cited humanitarian grounds and the strong relationship between Vietnam and Australia as reasons for downgrading Mr Tran's sentence, Mr Downer said.

"Where Australians face the death penalty overseas, we will support clemency and we are pleased that the Vietnamese Government has taken our views into account in reaching this decision," he said.

He said he was trying to secure clemency for an Australian and an Australian permanent resident sentenced to death in Vietnam for trafficking drugs.

Tran is originally from Sydney, a spokeswoman from the Department of Foreign and Affairs and Trade said.

AAP reports: According to the NSW Council for Civil Liberties website, Tran was convicted of trafficking 682 grams of heroin.

The website names Nguyen Van Chinh and Mai Cong Thanh as two other Australians facing the death penalty in Vietnam over drugs charges.

In a statement today, Mr Downer said he welcomed the decision by the Vietnamese President, made after appeals by the Australian Government including Mr Howard.

"We acknowledge the serious nature of this crime and we respect the right of other countries to enforce the law for crimes committed within their jurisdictions," he said.

He reminded Australians abroad that they were subject to overseas laws.

The reprieve for Tran comes as the spotlight falls on a growing number of Australians being arrested in Indonesia on drugs offences.

Twenty-year-old Adelaide man Graham Clifford Payne, who lives in Sumatra, is being held for questioning after police found what Mr Downer described as a "broad array" of illicit drugs.

His case follows that of Australian model Michelle Leslie, 24, who is protesting her innocence after police found two tablets, which they believe to be ecstasy, in her bag.

"A number of recent arrests of Australians on suspicion of drug-related offences should serve as a strong reminder to all Australians travelling overseas of the seriousness of such offences," Mr Downer said.

Australian's sentence commuted
An Australian man sentenced to death by firing squad in Vietnam for heroin trafficking has been granted clemency by Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong, the Australian government said on Tuesday.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer welcomed the decision to commute 40-year-old Tran Van Thanh's sentence to life imprisonment following appeals by the Australian government.

"In reaching his decision, the president has cited humanitarian grounds and the good relationship between Vietnam and Australia," Downer said in statement.

Thanh, who is of Vietnamese origin, was arrested in Ho Chi Minh City in 2003 for attempting to smuggle a large amount of heroin to Australia in a tube welded into a ship container.

He was convicted and sentenced last November, Vietnamese state media reported at the time.

Trafficking in more than 600 grams (1.32 lb) of heroin in Vietnam is punishable by death by firing squad.

Downer said the Australian government had sought clemency for two other Australians sentenced to death in Vietnam on drug trafficking charges, but he didn't name them.

In June, a Vietnam court sentenced 46-year-old Australian Mai Cong Thanh, who is of Vietnamese origin, to death for attempting to send heroin stuffed in loudspeakers to Australia, state-run Voice of Vietnam radio reported.

Another Australian man of Vietnamese descent was given the death penalty in April by the Ho Chi Minh City court for trafficking heroin.

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All information is Copyright 1997 - 2005 'Foreign Prisoner Support Service' unless stated otherwise - Click here for the legal stuff