Vietnam woman in North Korea murder case has release bid rejected

14 March, 2019, 16:23 | Author: Wade Massey
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A Malaysian court on Thursday announced it would temporarily postpone the trial of Vietnamese citizen Đoàn Thị Hương, a suspect in the murder of a North Korean national in 2017, due to her health condition, Vietnam News Agency reports.

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

"I am not angry at Siti", Doan told reporters in court through tears, adding that she was "traumatised". The man was dead within 20 minutes, and the women - who said they thought they were taking part in a Japanese game show - were arrested and charged with murder. "Please call my father, call my family, and ask for them to pray for me".

Reluctantly agreeing to postpone the trial, the judge said: "I wish I could just carry on but the accused is clearly not mentally or physically fit to testify".

Vietnamese Ambassador Le Quy Quynh said he was "disappointed", and that his country had been lobbying for Huong's release, and would continue to do so.

They were the only people in custody after four North Korean suspects fled the country the same morning Kim was killed.

"In reference to the representation submitted on March 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 ruling leaves Ms Doan, who arrived with armed guards at the Shah Alam court shortly before 9am and wearing a bulletproof vest, as the sole suspect in the case still behind bars.

On Monday a murder charge was unexpectedly withdrawn against the Indonesian woman accused alongside her, Siti Aisyah, and she flew back to Jakarta to a jubilant welcome.

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The women have always denied murder.

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

Proceedings were scheduled to resume Monday with Huong testifying - but the unexpected release of Aisyah led to the trial being adjourned so the Vietnamese suspect could also seek her freedom.

Indonesia had mounted a sustained diplomatic offensive to free 27-year-old Aisyah, while Vietnam had only stepped up pressure since the Indonesian woman's release this week.

Huong's lawyers said they were deeply disappointed with the decision and the attorney general had a "moral obligation" to explain the reasoning given the global nature of the case.

Huong would face a death sentence if she is convicted of murder.

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

South Korea has accused the North of ordering the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged relative of Kim Jong Un and once seen as heir apparent to the North's leadership. Pyongyang denies the claim.

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