A court in northern Vietnam sentenced five men to death and four to life in prison for smuggling heroin, legal authorities said on Tuesday.

Four other defendants received 20-year prison sentences during the four-day trial that ended on Monday, an official at Bac Giang’s People Court said.

According to the indictment, the gang, led by a 50-year-old woman named as Luu Thi Thuan, smuggled a total of 78 kilograms of heroin from September 2011 to June 2012, earning 750,000 dollars.

Vietnam has not executed any prisoners since 2011 when it switched from using firing squads to lethal injections. It was not able to import the necessary chemicals because of an EU ban imposed as part of an effort to pressure the country into abolishing capital punishment.

Although the government later announced it would produce the necessary chemicals domestically, it is still not clear when lethal injections will start being carried out.

The Vietnamese government on July 8 said drug-related crimes were on the rise, up 120 per cent in the first half of this year compared with the same period last year.

Last week a court in Hai Phong city sentenced four men to death for drug smuggling.

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