Malaysia won't drop case against Vietnamese in Kim killing

Sergio Conner
March 14, 2019

But on Thursday, lead prosecutor Muhammad Iskandar Ahmad told the High Court in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, that the attorney-general had ordered the case against Huong to proceed.

The Indonesian woman accused alongside her - Siti Aisyah - was unexpectedly released on Monday after prosecutors withdrew the murder charge against her. He said Vietnam's justice minister had written to the Malaysian attorney-general seeking Huong's release and that Vietnam would keep lobbying Malaysia to free her.

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.

Huong's father, Doan Van Thanh, said: "We are very shocked, very sad and we don't understand why it turned out this way".

Teh told the court the rejection of Vietnam's request was "perverse", and a case of discrimination, as the attorney-general had favoured one party over another, since the court had ordered both to enter their defence.

Who was Kim Jong-nam?

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.

Ms Huong, who arrived at court in a bulletproof vest and red headscarf, has already been on trial for a year and a half.

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".

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Vietnam's government said earlier that Foreign Minister Pham Binh Binh had asked Malaysia to "ensure a fair trial for Huong and set her free". "I think she must given the opportunity to be treated by a doctor".

The Vietnamese ambassador to Malaysia, Mr Le Quy Quynh, told AFP at the court: "I'm very disappointed that the court did not free Doan".

The 30-year-old, who could face the death penalty if convicted, sobbed in court when it was announced that her trial would go ahead.

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

Hisyam has argued Kim's killing was politically motivated and his client's behaviour after his death showed she did not realise what she was doing. They say they were tricked by North Korean spies into carrying out the Cold War-style killing using a highly toxic nerve agent, and believed it was a prank for a reality TV show.

Huong's lawyer said he would make a second bid to get the charge against her dropped, and criticised the failure to free her following the release of the Indonesian, Siti Aisyah. Pyongyang denies the claim.

"We hope the attorney general review the evidence and review the decision", said defence lawyer Naran Singh.

"No doubt, the AG has the power to discontinue proceedings against Siti Aisyah the way he did but why did he not do the same in the case of Doan?" he said in a statement.

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