Heroin use, Vietnam
Tuan Anh Nguyen, 45, injects a syringe filled with heroin in his rented room in Hanoi on Nov. 23, 2011. Reuters/Kham

A court in the Vietnamese province of Hoa Binh sentenced eight people to death for smuggling heroin across the country’s northern mountainous provinces. The court also ordered life sentences to five other people, while 17 other defendants were handed jail terms between six years to 20 years for crimes such as drug trafficking, harboring criminals, offering, brokering and taking bribes, murder, illegal use of weapons and opposing officials on duty.

Seven men and one woman, who were given death penalties, had reportedly smuggled around 397 pounds of heroin, Thanh Nien News, a local newspaper, reported. Vietnamese police had busted the rings in June 2011 and had arrested several people, seized large quantities of drugs, confiscated four cars, four guns and 27 mobile phones. Monday’s verdict comes after a 14-day trial for the accused, according to a report by The Associated Press.

In Vietnam’s largest-ever narcotics case in June last year, the country's highest court also upheld death penalties for 29 of 30 people for smuggling nearly two tons of heroin from Laos into Vietnam and then on to China.

Vietnam has some of the toughest drug laws in the world as smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or over 5.5 pounds of methamphetamine could lead to death penalty. The production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other illegal drugs is also punishable by death, according to Thanh Nien News.