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Estonia moves to toughen punishment for drug crimes

  • 2002-05-09
  • Agence France-Presse
TALLINN

The Estonian government moved May 7 to toughen punishments for drug-related crimes to control the surge in drug abuse.

Under amendments backed by the government and sent to Parliament for approval, the maximum prison sentence will be extended from one year to three for crimes involving small quantities of narcotics.

A second small-quantity offense would carry a prison term of up to seven years.

"Drug abuse is going up dramatically," Tiit Kabbin, one of the lawmakers who proposed the amendments, told AFP. "Our penal policy has been too lax."

The amendments are intended to clamp down on the organized crime groups dealing drugs, in particular to teenagers.

Backers of the amendments say they also plan to step up rehabilitation programs for drug addicts.

Estonia has become increasingly used as a transit route by traffickers smuggling drugs from Russia to Western Europe, sparking a growing use of drugs in the country and more crime.