VIETNAM. DEATH ROW PRISONER FOUND PREGNANT, TO FACE LIFE SENTENCE INSTEAD
October 12, 2006: a woman sentenced to death in Vietnam for smuggling heroin and detained in isolation became pregnant and would thus have her sentence commuted to life imprisonment, her lawyer said. Nguyen Thi Oanh was sentenced to face a firing squad on April 28, 2006, but on September 15 she was found to be 11 weeks pregnant - suggesting that she conceived the baby in late June. Her lawyer, Nguyen Hong Bach from the firm Pham Hong Hai and Associates, said that now both Mrs Oanh and her unborn baby will be allowed to live.
âIt means that she will avoid the death sentence and will face a life sentence instead,â he said.
Under Article 35 of the Vietnamese Penal Code, the death sentence cannot be applied to pregnant women or women with children under the age of three at the time of crime or the trial.
Mr Bach said that his client hasn't told him who the father is and that, âthe possibility that she was raped is not excluded.â
Another lawyer from the same firm, Le Van Kien, said that the baby will be delivered in the prison health centre and will be allowed to stay with its mother until he or she is three years old, after breast-feeding has finished. After that, the mother can decide whether to keep the child with her or have her looked after outside.
Mrs Oanh was originally arrested as she travelled back to the capital Hanoi from the province of Hoa Binh, about 100 kilometres to the southwest. Police quoted in the local newspaper Lao Dong said she had brought one billion Vietnamese Dong (about 62,000 dollars) to the province for the purchase of heroin.
Local newspaper Lao Dong quoted an official from the justice department as saying that becoming pregnant while in solitary confinement is a rare event in Vietnam. (Sources: Deutsche Presse-Agentur Hanoi, 12/10/2006)