HANOI, Sep 18 A Vietnamese court sentenced a 40-year-old Australian man of Vietnamese des

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HANOI, Sep 18 (Reuters) A Vietnamese court sentenced a 40-year-old Australian man of Vietnamese descent to death by firing squad for trafficking heroin, the court said in a statement today.

Nguyen Hong Viet from New South Wales was arrested in March this year before boarding a flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Sydney with nearly 950 grams of heroin in his clothes, the court said.

''Prosecutors find that with the amount of heroin trafficked, the defendant deserved the highest and most severe punishment so that society can prevent this crime and have educational impact on others,'' the Ho Chi Minh City People's Court said in a statement.

Viet told police he was hired for $10,000 to carry the drug to Australia, the court statement said.

The court also ordered Viet to pay 200 million dong ($12,300) in fines.

Several Australians of Vietnamese descent have been arrested for trafficking heroin to Australia from Vietnam in recent years and at least five were sentenced to death.

None of the sentences have yet been carried out.

In May a Vietnamese Australian on a Sydney-bound plane vomitted a nylon bag of white powder suspected to be heroin, causing the plane to return to Vietnam.

At the same airport in Ho Chi Minh City in February, an Australian woman was arrested after being caught with 1.5 kg of heroin in her luggage.

Trafficking more than 600 grams of heroin is punishable by death or life imprisonment in Vietnam.

($1=16,166 dong) REUTERS ARB HT1642

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