March 25, 2023

As Australia reacts to Indonesia’s execution of two citizens, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, there are at least 17 other Australians in danger of receiving the death penalty around the world.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed the number to Guardian Australia, but would not disclose the names or locations.

More than half of them are thought to have been detained in China; four known cases involve smuggling methamphetamine, commonly known in Australia as ice. In 2014, China Daily reported that of 63 foreign drug-smuggling suspects detained by officials in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, 11 were Australian.

Rao Jiyong, a deputy director at the city’s anti-smuggling customs bureau, told the newspaper that drug-smuggling cases involving Australian suspects had rapidly increased over the past two years and cooperation had been strengthened with Australian federal police and customs officials.

In 2013-14, more than a third of Australians in prison overseas were there because of drug offences. Countries which apply the death penalty on those convicted of using, dealing or trafficking drugs include Indonesia, Thailand, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates.

Peter Gardner, 25 (China)

A dual New Zealand/Australian citizen, Gardner was arrested at Guangzhou airport, China, on 8 November 2014 after customs officials allegedly found 30kg of methamphetamine in his bags. Gardner’s lawyer, Craig Tuck, confirmed with Guardian Australia his trial would begin on 7 May in Guangzhou’s municipal intermediate court. “This is considerably earlier than expected,” Tuck said. It is expected to last no more than two days.

Bengali Sherrif and Ibrahim Jalloh (China)

Sherrif and Jalloh were arrested by Chinese authorities at Guangzhou airport in June 2014, the ABC reported. Sherrif was sentenced to a suspended death penalty for attempting to smuggle methamphetamine from China to Australia, which could be commuted to life in prison after two years of good behaviour. Jalloh is awaiting trial.

Anthony Roger Bannister, 43 (China)

Australian jockey Bannister was arrested for drug smuggling in Guangzhou on 11 March 2014, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. More than 3kg of crystal methamphetamine were found in envelopes stuffed into eight handbags in his luggage. “I do believe that I have been set up … in this drug-smuggling scheme,” Bannister told the court at his October trial. “They’ve used me as a mule.”

Henry Chhin (China)

Chhin, then 35 from Sydney, was detained by police in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen on 10 May 2004 for attempting to mail 270g of methamphetamine to Australia, the Shenzhen Daily reported. The box, which allegedly contained the drugs and computer software, was intercepted by Shanghai police two days before. Local police said another 700g of the same drug was found in kitchen cabinets and the sitting room of Chhin’s residence. He was given the death penalty with a two-year suspension in March 2005.

A small group of foreign nationals have been executed in China, but none have been Australian. According to these include five Japanese, four South Koreans and a Pakistani-British businessman.

Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto, 52 (Malaysia)

Exposto, from Melbourne, was arrested on 7 December 2014 after arriving at Kuala Lumpur airport, en route from Shanghai to Melbourne, with a bag authorities said contained 1.5kg of crystal methamphetamine. Exposto’s lawyer, Tania Scivetti, confirmed to Guardian Australia that a chemical analysis of the substance would be submitted to court on Thursday, after which the case would probably move to the high court for a May hearing.

Malaysian law carries a mandatory death penalty for drug trafficking. Three Australian nationals have been executed by the state: Michael McAuliffe in 1993, and Kevin Barlow and Brian Chambers in 1986.

Pham Trung Dung, 37 (Vietnam)

Dung was arrested in May 2013, when custom officials reportedly found heroin in his luggage as he boarded a flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Australia, the Associated Press reported. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said, “We understand that he has the right of appeal. Whether he decides to do so is a matter for the man and his lawyers.”

Under the Vietnamese penal code, a person caught in possession of heroin can be sentenced to death. The five Australians who have received death penalties for heroin trafficking in Vietnam have had their sentences commuted to life in prison, reported the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties.

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