Two Australians on death row in Vietnam have been saved from the firing squad after the Vietnamese President granted clemency, ABC Radio said Friday February 17.
Convicted heroin traffickers Mai Cong Thanh and Nguyen Van Chinh were arrested in June 2003 and sentenced to death last year.
Foreign Affairs minister Alexander Downer has told ABC Radio’s AM programme, President Tran Duc Luong has commuted their sentence to life behind bars.
“He said in doing this it’s been done on the basis of the humane tradition and the good relationship between Vietnam and Australia, so I’m very pleased that the representations I and the prime minister and others have made on this occasion [have] borne fruit,” he said.
The Australian government was “very grateful” to Vietnam for doing so, he added.
Downer also said the two should count their blessings.
Thanh, 46, was convicted in June 2005 of trafficking 1.7 kilograms of heroin two-years earlier.
Chinh, 45, was convicted in April 2005 of buying one kilogram of heroin in Vietnam in December 2002.
“They are extremely lucky that they will not be executed and as I’ve said, those Australians like me that are opposed to capital punishment, will be very pleased that the Vietnamese government has done what they’ve done,” he said.
“But they are very, very lucky people—there’s no question about that.”
Meanwhile a Melbourne lawyer who is trying to stop the execution of two of the Bali nine has welcomed Vietnam’s decision.
Brian Walters QC said it was the humane thing to do.
“I think different countries have different policies in relation to these things,” he said.
“Vietnam does have a history of commuting the death sentence and it’s good to see that that’s been followed through in this case,” he added.