An Australian man of Vietnamese origin has been sentenced to
death for trafficking heroin in southern Vietnam, a court official says.
A court official in the province of Tay Ninh says 53-year-old Trinh Huu
was given the death sentence after being found guilty of trafficking around two kilograms of heroin.
He was arrested last December close to the border with Cambodia along with three Vietnamese accomplices.
The official says the accomplices have received jail terms ranging from 15 years to life.
The Australian Government says an appeal must be lodged within 15 working days.
"We attended the trial (Monday)," a spokesman for the Australian consulate general in Ho Chi Minh City told AFP.
"There is nothing about the trial that was untoward," he said, noting that there was no role for the consulate at present until the appeal process was exhausted.
"We are simply monitoring the situation."
The Australian Government says the appeal could take up to four months to be heard but in practice it could take longer.
It says it is too early to discuss appeals for clemency.
If the sentence is upheld, Trinh could be executed by firing squad in about one year.
Foreigners are rarely executed in Vietnam, which has some of the toughest drug laws in the world.
A Canadian of Vietnamese origin, Nguyen Thi Hiep, was executed by firing squad in April 2000.
He was the first and only Westerner to be put to death in Vietnam for drug trafficking since 1975.
The communist country has in the past spared the lives of at least two Australian nationals sentenced to death on drugs charges.
In July 2003, Le My Linh, an Australian woman condemned to death for drug trafficking, had her sentence commuted to life imprisonment by President Tran Duc Luong.
That decision followed intense diplomatic pressure from Canberra.
In August this year, 40-year-old Tran Van Thanh also had his life spared.
Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer has called on the Vietnamese Government to spare two other Australian citizens, Nguyen Van Chinh, 45, and Mai Cong Thanh, 46.
Both have also been convicted of drug smuggling.
Vietnam has not yet publicly responded to Mr Downer's appeal.
Earlier this month, Singapore hanged 25-year-old Australian Van Nguyen.