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01/07/2007 00:00:00

China: 10 Ugandans face death in China over narcotics


TEN Ugandans held on charges of illicit drug trafficking in China will
soon be lined up for public execution as punishment, a government
minister has said. James Kinobe, the state minister for youth who has
just returned from China, said some 10 Ugandans were duped into illicit
drug smuggling by a network of gangs to act as carriers of heroin pills
to China.

The minister said as illicit drug traffickers continue to develop
ingenious concealment and transportation schemes to stay ahead of the
authorities, some desperate Ugandan youth have been caught in the process.

Under the current Chinese law, possession of defined quantities of
illicit drugs attracts a death sentence. Five kilos of cannabis resin,
one kilo of heroin or 50 grams of cocaine can result in the death
penalty being imposed.

"The suspects, who are aged between 18 and 23, including one woman, were
found with heroin amounting to over 1.5kg each, far beyond the limit.
This automatically spells a death sentence," Mr Kinobe said.

While speaking on a local FM radio in Kampala on Thursday, Mr Kinobe
revealed that if the 10, Ugandans are found guilty, they will be
executed. The minister, however, said there are diplomatic efforts by
the two governments to try and save the lives of the suspects.

It is not clear whether they were using diplomatic passports as has been
the practice with most Ugandan drug traffickers. This week, a minister
in The Tooro kingdom goes on trial in London over narcotics trafficking.

"It's very sad that our people will soon be killed in China for drug
trafficking. Most of these people are youth who wanted to make cheap
money. They were arrested recently and are now still in jail waiting for
trial," Mr Kinobe said.

The revelation comes after the latest report from the UN Office on Drugs
and Crime listed the seizure of 12,000kg of cannabis resin in Uganda
among 2005's 30 biggest catches worldwide. The report says Uganda, in
13th position, is among seven African countries listed in a ranking
topped by Spain, Pakistan and Morocco, according to UNODC's 2007 World
Drug Report released last week.

A source told Daily Monitor over the weekend that the Ugandan
government, through Amnesty International, is desperately calling on the
Chinese government to halt these executions pending diplomatic negotiations.

The government has decided to conceal particulars [names and families]
of the suspects until all negotiations have been concluded.
"We know all their names but as the government, we shall have to wait.
We're handling the matter with the Chinese government and further
details will be communicated at a later stage," a source said.

Mr Kinobe described drug traffickers as bold risk takers who work with
family members, or form alliances with friends or other social contacts
whom they come to trust.
But when Daily Monitor contacted Moses Sakira, thehead of Interpol
yesterday, he said he has been away. "I have just returned from Arusha.
But I will have to cross-check before I comment on the matter," Mr
Sakira said.

But Mr Kinobe said before the arrest, suspects were made to ingest
cocaine and heroin pills by their accomplices. He said they were
arrested one-by-one and that the number is growing.

"These people train our youth and convince them that they are well
prepared and would not get caught. They [drug gangs] train them by
getting them to swallow things like grapes. These youth swallow drugs
without chewing. When the time comes, they carry the drugs in their
stomachs," the minister said.

"The anti-drug authorities in China subjected those [10 Ugandans] to a
therapeutic blood tests after they were given a certain fluid to drink
which forced all other pills out of their bodies," Mr Kinobe said.

Executing drug traffickers in China is a simple matter and more than 50
people were executed on drug-related charges in just eight of China's 23
provinces in the single week leading up to Anti-Drugs Day in China last
year. But Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases
without exception as a violation of the right to life and the ultimate
form of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

The United Nations has never given any endorsement to the use of the
death penalty for drug-related offences, and the UN has called on China
to end the use of the death penalty for drug trafficking.

Phillip Idro, the former Ugandan ambassador to China, said if there are
any Ugandans being held, they are being used by international drug
gangs. "It's not easy for a Ugandan to go to China unless he or she has
a helping hand from an international drug network," Mr Idro said.

Said Mr Kinobe: "These gangs promise millions to our desperate and
unemployed youth to engage in such illicit activities. The youth should
desist from drugs because they will be killed."

New statistics from China's Drug Control Bureau show that more than
165,000 drug-traffickers have been arrested and are currently in jail.
Efforts to get a comment from the Chinese embassy in Kampala were futile
as all telephone contacts were switched off yesterday.

Author: The Monitor: Uganda via UKCIA

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