Vietnam woman in North Korea murder case has release bid rejected

Lamar Ellis
March 15, 2019

Malaysia's attorney general on Thursday rejected an appeal to drop murder charges against a Vietnamese woman standing trial for the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's estranged half-brother.

The Shah Alam High Court had, on March 11, given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal to the other accused in the case, Indonesian Siti Aisyah, after the prosecution withdrew the charge against her.

Buoyed by the news that Aisyah was freed - and after Vietnam's foreign minister and justice minister publicly called for Huong's release this week - they were certain she would be home soon. He said Vietnam's justice minister had written to the Malaysian attorney general seeking Huong's release and that Vietnam will keep lobbying Malaysia to free her.

Vietnam's foreign ministry said it regretted the Malaysian court's decision not to immediately free Huong.

He said the move to release Indonesian Siti Aisyah but not Doan was perplexing as they were jointly accused and especially after the court ruled that there was prima facie to proceed with the prosecution. "More so in this case because two people were charged, but it was withdrawn against one but not against the other".

Two women were accused of smearing a toxic nerve agent on the face of Kim Jong Nam as he walked through a Kuala Lumpur airport terminal in 2017. Both the accused stated through counsel that they were doing pranks.

Interpol issued a red alert for four North Koreans who Malaysian police identified as suspects and who left the country hours after the murder.

The duo had been charged over the murder.

When asked by the judge if she was unwell, Huong stood in the dock and said she suffered from tension and stress. The Guardian reported that Huong looked pale and drawn.

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The judge said Huong was not well enough to continue with the trial on Thursday, and adjourned proceedings until April 1. The defense part of the trial was to have started Monday. She thanked the Party, State and the Vietnamese Embassy in Malaysia for their help and support.

In Huong's village in Vietnam, her family was crestfallen.

"I had hoped for good news today, but...there is none..." I'm very sad and disappointed. "I am not angry that Siti has been freed".

Her family says she is a good girl who fell into the murder plot unwittingly.

Doan Thi Huong is on trial for the 2017 assassination of Kim Jong Nam at klia2 in Sepang. "It's so unfair. The two of them were in this and now one got out, one can not".

The 30-year-old, who could face the death penalty if convicted, sobbed in court when it was announced that her trial would go ahead. He urged the attorney-general to be transparent and explain why he dropped the case against Aisyah but not Huong.

Both women were facing murder charges over the death of Kim Jong-nam. The witnesses said traces of VX were found on both women's clothes as well as on Huong's fingernails. There was security camera video of Huong with Kim. They also said that government lawyers failed to prove that the women had aimed to kill Kim.

The defence phase of the trial is expected to shift the focus onto the absent North Koreans. They were then seen meeting a North Korean Embassy official and an Air Koryo official before flying out of the country.

Malaysian officials have never officially accused North Korea in the case and have made it clear they don't want the trial politicized.

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