A court in northern Vietnam has sentenced eight people to death and five to life in prison for smuggling 180 kilograms of heroin, state media reported Tuesday.wpid-Execution-rope.jpg

The 35-member ring trafficked the drugs from Laos to northern Vietnam over a period of more than three years, Thanh Nien newspaper reported.

The penalty was justified because of the large amount of heroin involved, the judge said when delivering the verdict at the court in Hoa Binh province following a 14-day trial, the newspaper said.

The remaining members received between six and 20 years for a range of crimes, including murder, drug trafficking, harbouring criminals, illegal use of weapons and opposing officials on duty.

Police busted the ring in June 2011 in Hoa Binh province, making mass arrests and seizing large quantities of illegal drugs.

In the country’s largest narcotics case, an appeals court in June upheld a decision that found 29 people guilty of smuggling nearly two tons of heroin from Laos to China through Vietnam.

The number of prisoners on death row is a state secret, but local media reports there are more than 500 people awaiting execution. Capital crimes include murder, child rape and drug trafficking.

There was a two-year hiatus on executions when Vietnam switched from firing squad to lethal injection in 2011 and could not source the needed drugs following a ban on such exports from the EU. The country now produces the drugs domestically and resumed executions in 2013.

GNA

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