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Vietnamese suspect in Kim Jong Nam's killing seeking release

15 March 2019

A Vietnamese woman suspected of killing Kim Jong-un's half-brother has lost her bid for immediate release after Malaysian officials refused to drop a murder charge - days after her Indonesian co-accused was freed.

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

Ambassador Quỳnh said lawyers and the Vietnamese Embassy would try their best to support Hương and that the Vietnamese Government and Embassy hope the Malaysian court will give Hương a fair trial and quickly release her from custody.

Prosecutors had sprung a surprise on Monday by asking the court to drop the charge against Siti Aisyah and free her.

Huong's lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik told the court they were disappointed with the attorney general's decision and said prosecutors were being unfair to Huong. Analysts say Malaysia risks creating a rift with Vietnam if it doesn't do the same for Huong.

Teh rejected speculation that Siti Aisyah's release was due to a lack of video evidence against her, saying the court had already established a case against both.

The judge said Ms Huong was not well enough to continue with the trial today, and adjourned proceedings until 1 April.

The two women were the only people in custody after four North Korean suspects fled the country the morning of February 13, 2017, when Kim Jong Nam was poisoned with VX nerve agent.

She has been on trial for a year and a half over the 2017 assassination of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur airport.

However, Doan's counsel Hisham confirmed that Malaysian prosecutors rejected a request to drop the charges against Doan, meaning she alone will face trial for the murder. Very obviously, there is discrimination. Under Malaysian law, intent to kill is critical to a murder charge. The foreign ministry said in a statement that she was "deceived and did not realize at all that she was being manipulated by North Korean intelligence".

Prosecutors have contended the women were trained assassins who knew they were handling poison because they carefully held out their hands away from their bodies and went to separate restrooms to wash their hands afterward.

It said that over the past two years, Aisyah's plight was raised in "every bilateral Indonesia-Malaysia meeting", including at the president's level, the vice-president's level and in regular meetings of the foreign minister and other ministers with their Malaysian counterparts. The defense part of the trial was to have started Monday.

In Vietnam, her stepmother Nguyen Thi Vy said the decision saddened her.

Huong was sobbing as she spoke to Vietnamese Embassy officials after Thursday's court hearing ended.

Who was Kim Jong-nam?

Huong would face a death sentence if she is convicted of murder. "I had hoped my daughter would be freed like the Indonesian woman", said her 66-year-old father Doan Van Thanh.

On Malaysia's request, Interpol has issued arrest warrant for the four men, who are believed to be back in Pyongyang, but North Korea is not a member of the organisation.

Vietnamese suspect in Kim Jong Nam's killing seeking release