(Kim Jong Nam killing) Malaysia won't drop case against Vietnamese woman
Thursday, March 14, 2019
Malaysia’s attorney general ordered the murder case to proceed against a Vietnamese woman accused in the killing of the North Korean leader’s estranged half brother, prosecutors said in court today.
Prosecutor Iskandar Ahmad gave no explanation for the refusal to drop the murder charge against Doan Thi Huong, who is the only suspect in custody after the stunning decision to drop the case Monday against Indonesian Siti Aisyah.
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.
"It does not bring confidence to our criminal justice system. Very obviously, there is discrimination. The AG favored one party to the other,” Teh said.
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.
Huong stood in the dock and responded to the judge’s questions on the deferment request, saying she suffered from tension and stress. "I have no idea what is going on,” she said.
The judge agreed to postpone the trial until April 1 but warned there should be no more delay. The defense phase of the trial was to have begun Monday.
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. Aisyah and Huong have said they thought they were taking part in a prank for a TV show.
Huong looked tired and was sobbing as she spoke to Vietnamese Embassy officials after Thursday’s court hearing ended.
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 the Malaysian attorney general seeking Huong’s release and that Vietnam will keep lobbying Malaysia to free her.
"We will request Malaysia to have fair judgment and release her as soon as possible,” he said.
A High Court judge last August had found there was enough evidence to infer that Aisyah, Huong and the four missing North Koreans engaged in a "well-planned conspiracy” to kill Kim Jong Nam.
Lawyers for the women have previously said that they were pawns in a political assassination with clear links to the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and that the prosecution failed to show the women had any intention to kill. Intent to kill is crucial to a murder charge under Malaysian law.
Huong would face a death sentence if she is convicted of murder. Malaysia currently has a moratorium on executions but has backtracked on its announcement last year that it would abolish the death penalty. Instead the government said capital punishment would no longer be mandatory and courts would have discretion to impose the death penalty for 11 offenses. The changes require approval by Parliament before they take effect.
Malaysian officials have never officially accused North Korea and have made it clear they don’t want the trial politicized.
Kim Jong Nam was the eldest son in the current generation of North Korea’s ruling family. He had been living abroad for years but could have been seen as a threat to Kim Jong Un’s rule.-AP