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  • Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, who was a suspect in the murder case of North Korean leader

    Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, who was a suspect in the murder case of North Korean leader's half brother Kim Jong Nam, leaves the Shah Alam High Court in Malaysia. | Photo: Reuters

Published 14 March 2019

Despite both women presenting the same defense, only Aisyah was released, which means Huong is the only suspect in detainment. 

A court in Malaysia has denied an appeal to drop charges for one of the women accused of murdering Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un. The other woman accused, a national from Indonesia, was released earlier this week. 

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Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam and Siti Aisyah of Indonesia were jointly accused of wiping the deadly nerve agent VX on Kim's face, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, which killed him within minutes. Both women claimed they were tricked into believing they were participating in a reality TV show by North Korean agents who disappeared after the murder.

The four North Koreans have been charged for the murder in absentia, as their location is unknown. Interpol has urged international governments to locate the individuals and extradite them to face trial. 

Despite both women presenting the same defense, only Aisyah was released, while Huong reamins in custody. Aisyah has already returned to Indonesia, which authorities attribute to fierce lobbying by Jakarta. Prosecutors have not yet confirmed the reason behind the differing sentences awarded to both women.

Huong's legal team says this discrepancy is unfair, and that she should be released on the same grounds as her co-defendant. According to Huong's lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, "both presented the same defense before this court... the public prosecutor has not acted fairly."

Vietnamese ambassador to Malaysia Le Quy Quynh told reporters that the country's justice minister has made a formal request, for Huong's release, to Malaysia's attorney general. Quynh says Hanoi will continue to seek fair treatment and a quick release for Huong.

Tuesday's hearing was adjourned after Judge Azmi Ariffin said Huong did not look well. The justice ordered for the defendant to be medically examined, and for the court to resume on April 1. If convicted, the crime is punishable by hanging.

Huong's lawyer says it is "disappointing" that the case had not been dropped, and pointed out that "there is discrimination as the prosecution favors one party to the other," adding that the decision made by the courts "does not sit well with our criminal justice system."

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