Saturday, 23 March, 2019

Vietnamese woman in Kim Jong-nam murder case loses bid for release

Vietnam regrets Malaysian rejection of appeal to free murder accused Vietnam regrets Malaysian rejection of appeal to free murder accused
Jeannette Daniel | 14 March, 2019, 16:22

A Vietnamese woman charged with assassinating the North Korean leader's half-brother lost her bid for immediate release on Thursday (March 14) as Malaysian authorities refused to drop a murder charge, days after her Indonesian co-accused was freed.

Prosecutors said the women had been specially trained to murder the estranged relative of Kim Jong Un, once seen as heir apparent to the North's leadership, but their lawyers insist they were innocent pawns.

The ruling to proceed with her high-profile trial delivered a crushing blow to Doan Thi Huong, 30, who watched her Indonesian co-defendant, Siti Aisyah, walk free from the same Malaysian court and return home to her family on Monday.

Huong's lawyers said CCTV video showing Huong walking up behind Kim and putting her hands over his face should have no bearing on the attorney general's decision, because both women were mounting the same defence and it had already been chose to free Siti Aisyah.

Huong's lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik was more blunt, telling the court the decision was "perverse".

Teh said, "It does not speak well of our criminal justice system".

He also sought a deferment of the trial, saying Huong has been unwell since Aisyah's release and is not in a position to testify.

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

Four men from North Korea who were suspected of being behind the attack fled Malaysia the day Kim was killed, leaving Huong and Siti Aisyah the only two people in custody in relation to the crime.

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

"I had hoped for good news today, but unfortunately there is none".

Given her mental and physical condition, the judge accepted her lawyer's assertion that Huong was in no condition to take the stand and give evidence in her own defence, agreeing to postpone the case until April 1.

"It's so unfair. They were together, did the same thing, " she said.

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

"Furthermore, the trial judge made a finding that the prosecution had succeeded in establishing a prima facie case against both of them and called upon them to enter their defence against the said charge".

During the prosecution phase of the trial, expert witnesses testified that acute VX poisoning caused Kim's death and the nerve agent was detected on his face, in his eyes and on his clothing.

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. The North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur was defaced with graffiti just hours before the trial was to resume.

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