Vietnam sentences Australian pensioner to death for drugs

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Billboards warning about drug addiction, beside a road outside Hanoi. 18 May 2016.Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Drug addiction is a persistent social problem in Vietnam

A court in Vietnam has sentenced a 73-year-old Australian woman to death for drug smuggling.

Nguyen Thi Huong was convicted by the Ho Chi Minh City court of trying to smuggle 1.6kg (3.5lb) of heroin out of the country.

The court rejected her claim that a woman called "Helen" gave her 36 bars of soap and that she did not know they contained drugs.

Vietnam has some of the toughest drug penalties in the world.

Ms Huong, originally from Vietnam and who was reported to be in poor health, was stopped while checking in for a flight to Australia in December 2014.

Her trial lasted half a day. If an appeal fails she will be executed by lethal injection.

The Australian government expressed its concern and stressed its opposition the death penalty.

"We will continue to provide consular assistance and support to the woman and her family," the foreign ministry said in a statement.