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Saturday, 29 April, 2000, 17:11 GMT 18:11 UK
Canada berates Vietnam over execution
Vietnamese parade
The row comes as Vietnam War ceremonies loom
Canada has rejected Vietnam's explanation about why it executed one of its nationals for drug smuggling.

Officials in Ottawa say Hanoi ignored crucial evidence which could have saved Nguyen Thi Hiep's life.

Canada's ambassador to Vietnam, Cecile Latour, is currently in Canada and will not return to Hanoi until diplomatic relations between the two countries are re-examined.

I don't think their argument is a valid one

Lloyd Axworthy
The diplomatic row comes in the run-up to Sunday's commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Vietnam War ending.

The Vietnamese Government has pledged to free 12,000 prisoners to mark the event.Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy says he will continue to put pressure on Hanoi unless it explains its actions promptly.

Nguyen Thi Hiep was executed last Monday despite Hanoi promising to look at Canadian evidence that Ottawa said cast doubt on her conviction.

Vietnam insisted that it no choice but to execute her as she had been caught red-handed smuggling drugs.

Mr Axworthy rejected this, saying: "We sent them what paper documents we had but they did not follow it up, so I don't think their argument is a valid one."

Lloyd Axworthy
Lloyd Axworthy wants an explanation from Hanoi
"It seems to me they have broken virtually all the basic courtesies and conventions in this matter and this woman had to pay the price for it. It's a great tragedy."

Heroin find

Ms Nguyen was arrested in April 1996 at Hanoi airport after customs officials found a reported 5.4 kilograms of heroin hidden in her luggage.

She was convicted in March 1997.

Canada's foreign minister has written a letter to his Vietnamese counterpart, seeking an explanation and urging clemency for Ms Nguyen's ageing mother, sentenced to life in jail for her involvement in the smuggling case.

"I haven't had a response back from their foreign minister yet but I expect we'll be getting one reasonably soon and if not we'll continue to put the pressure on."

Canada has withdrawn an offer to provide training on the World Trade Organisation for Vietnamese officials and Canadian officials will not attend events sponsored by the Vietnamese government this weekend to mark the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam war.

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29 Apr 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Return to Saigon
28 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
Vietnam to free over 12,000 prisoners
28 Apr 00 | Asia-Pacific
America reflects on Vietnam
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