Vietnamese woman in Kim Jong Nam murder case loses bid for release

Lester Mason
March 14, 2019

A Vietnamese woman suspected of assassinating the North Korean leader's half-brother lost her bid for immediate release Thursday as Malaysian authorities refused to drop a murder charge, days after her Indonesian co-accused was freed.

Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, who was a suspect in the murder case of North Korean leader's half brother Kim Jong Nam, is escorted as she arrives at the Shah Alam High Court on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia March 14, 2019. The prosecutor did not elaborate.

The Indonesian woman accused alongside her - Siti Aisyah - was unexpectedly released on Monday after prosecutors withdrew the murder charge against her.

Abdul Rashid Ismail, a leading Malaysian criminal lawyer who was not involved in the case, said the decision to prosecute Huong but not Aisyah was "clearly unfair".

"So it makes no difference whatsover if Doan's image was caught on the CCTV camera, none at all", he said after the hearing.

It was reported that Indonesia's Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna H Laoly had written to Thomas, appealing for the release of Siti Aisyah. There are no differences, similar evidence and the same defence. "No doubt, the AG has the power to discontinue proceedings against Siti Aisyah the way he did, but why did he not do the same in the case of Doan?"

Huong and Aisyah were accused of smearing the toxic VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam's face in an airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on February 13, 2017.

Kim Jong-nam was the older half-brother of North Korea's authoritarian ruler, Kim Jong-un. Aisyah was only seen as a blurred figure fleeing the scene of the crime.

Vietnamese diplomatic efforts have proved less effective on the part of Doan, though Hisham confirmed that the embassy of Vietnam in Malaysia, as well as the Vietnamese minister of justice and minister of foreign affairs were "communication with the Malaysian government to secure the release of Doan Thi Huong".

Huong arrived in court looking anxious. "Only God knows that we did not commit the murder", she said.

Judge Azmi Ariffin said Huong was not "physically and mentally" well enough to continue with the trial on Thursday, and adjourned proceedings until April 1. "I have no idea what is going on", she said. "I think she must given the opportunity to be treated by a doctor".

Vietnamese Ambassaador Le Quy Quynh said he was "very disappointed" with the attorney general's decision.

Hisyam has argued Kim's killing was politically motivated and his client's behaviour after his death showed she did not realise what she was doing. The witnesses said traces of VX were found on both women's clothes as well as on Huong's fingernails.

South Korea has accused the North of ordering the hit, which Pyongyang denies. The North denies the claim.

She is the only suspect in custody after the stunning decision to drop the case Monday against Indonesian Siti Aisyah. It was decision which Hisham described as "discrimination" and evidence that the attorney general Tommy Thomas had "favoured" one defendant over another.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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