Kim Jong Nam murder trial: Malaysia rejects call to release Vietnamese woman

Kim Jong Nam murder trial: Malaysia rejects call to release Vietnamese woman

Doan Thi Huong
Vietnamese national, Doan Thi Huong (C) leaves Shah Alam High Court escorted by Malaysian police, outside Kuala Lumpur on March 14, 2019. (Photo: AFP / MOHD RASFAN)

SHAH ALAM, Malaysia: A Vietnamese woman accused of assassinating Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korea's leader, will continue trial after Malaysian prosecutors rejected a request from Vietnam to free her on Thursday (Mar 14).

"In reference to the representation submitted on Mar 11 to the honourable attorney-general, we got an order to proceed with the case," lead prosecutor Muhammad Iskandar Ahmad told the High Court in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur.

The Vietnamese government had made the call after Doan Thi Huong's co-accused, an Indonesian woman by the name of Siti Aisyah, was released on Monday.

Huong and Aisyah were charged with killing Kim by smearing his face with VX poison, a banned chemical weapon, at Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017.

READ: Kim Jong Nam trial: Malaysia PM says release of Indonesian suspect within rules

READ: Kim Jong Nam trial: Vietnam asks Malaysia to free Vietnamese suspect

Wearing a bulletproof vest and a red headscarf, Huong arrived at the Malaysian court where she has been on trial for a year and a half over the assassination.

She sobbed in the dock as the news was announced, and tearfully told reporters: "I am not angry that Siti has been freed. Only God knows that we did not commit the murder.

"I want my family to pray for me," she added. 

Vietnamese national, Doan Thi Huong (2nd R)is escorted by Malaysian police at the Shah Alam High
Vietnamese national, Doan Thi Huong (2nd R)is escorted by Malaysian police at the Shah Alam High Court, outside Kuala Lumpur, on March 14, 2019 to stand trial for her alleged role in the assassination of Kim Jong Nam AFP/MOHD RASFAN

Judge Azmi Ariffin said on Thursday that Huong was not "physically and mentally" well enough to continue with the trial and adjourned proceedings until Apr 1.

"It's our complaint that the public prosecution has not acted fairly and justly to Doan Thi Huong," said her lawyer Hisyam Teh.

Teh told the court the rejection of Vietnam's request was "perverse", and a case of discrimination, as the attorney-general had favoured one party over another.

READ: Vietnam family of Kim murder suspect urge her not to lose hope

Vietnamese ambassador to Malaysia, Le Quy Quynh, told AFP at the court: "I'm very disappointed that the court did not free Doan.

"We will request Malaysia to be fair and to release her as soon as possible."

On Monday, the murder charge was unexpectedly withdrawn against Aisyah, who flew back to Jakarta to a jubilant welcome.

READ: Indonesian suspect in Kim Jong Nam's death 'very timid', 'kept to herself'

READ: Pranks, stardom, money: How a woman was allegedly coaxed into killing Kim Jong Nam

Lawyers for Huong - who could face death by hanging if convicted - then asked the Malaysian government to withdraw the murder charge against her.

The women have always denied murder. They say they were tricked by North Korean spies into carrying out the Cold War-style killing using a highly toxic nerve agent, and believed it was a prank for a reality TV show.

Their lawyers presented them as scapegoats and said the real killers were four North Koreans. The men were suspected of being the masterminds behind the plot but fled Malaysia shortly after the assassination.

READ: Vietnamese dad of Kim murder suspect wants 'kind' daughter home

The trial began in October 2017 but there had been no hearings since August last year when the prosecution finished presenting its case.

Proceedings were scheduled to resume Monday with Huong, 30, testifying - but the unexpected release of Aisyah led to the trial being adjourned.

Indonesia mounted a diplomatic campaign to free Aisyah, with the country's justice minister writing to Malaysia's attorney-general asking for her release.

Since Aisyah's release, Vietnam has stepped up pressure - the country's justice minster has also written to the Malaysian government seeking Huong's release and the Vietnamese foreign minister has pressed his Malaysian counterpart on the issue.

Source: Agencies/nc/na

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