Tuesday, 26 March, 2019

Malaysia won't drop case against Vietnamese in Kim killing

Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong is escorted by Malaysian police at the Shah Alam High Court outside Kuala Lumpur Malaysia won't drop case against Vietnamese in Kim killing
Ellis Copeland | 15 March, 2019, 11:58

Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, center, is escorted by police as she arrives at Shah Alam High Court in Shah Alam, Malaysia, Thursday, March 14, 2019.

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

Huong's lawyer sought a deferment of the trial on Thursday, saying she was unwell and needed medical treatment.

The Indonesian government had repeatedly lobbied for charges against Ms Siti Aisyah to be dropped and for her to be allowed to return home.

Vietnamese Ambassaador Le Quy Quynh said he was "very disappointed" with the attorney general's decision. He said Vietnam's justice minister had written to Malaysia's chief attorney asking for Huong's release.

While Aisyah's release was partly political, the case against her was also seen as weaker as her lawyers have told the court there was no video evidence showing her accosting Kim at the airport, said Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow with Singapore's Institute of International Affairs.

The presiding judge said the defendant was not "physically and mentally" well enough to continue with the proceedings.

Prosecutors did not reveal why they rejected Huong's appeal but let Aisyah go free.

Defence lawyers have maintained the women were pawns in an assassination orchestrated by North Korean agents.

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.

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"Both the accused have said they were made scapegoats by North Korea, both of them said they were doing video pranks - very obviously there is discrimination", added Hisyam Teh Poh Teik.

Both women have said that they thought they were playing a prank, and had no idea their actions would have deadly consequences.

The duo had been charged over the murder.

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

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 phase of the trial was to have begun Monday.

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

During the prosecution part of the trial, expert witnesses said that poisoning caused Kim's death.

Oh said Vietnam, which hosted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for an official visit and a summit with President Donald Trump last month, had pushed less hard for Huong.

Huong would face a death sentence if she is convicted of murder. "The government gave us the best support but the other side could not solve it, what can we do", said Huong's father Doan Van Thanh from his village in northern Vietnam.

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.

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