Published: Mon, May 06, 2019
Global Media | By Garry Long

Vietnamese women accused in murder of Kim Jong-nam freed

Vietnamese women accused in murder of Kim Jong-nam freed

The release of a Vietnamese woman from a Malaysian jail has effectively closed the case on who orchestrated the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korea's leader.

FILE PHOTO: 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 on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia March 14, 2019. "She was obviously very happy to be released and looks forward to being reunited with her family", her lawyer, Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, told the BBC on Friday.

The women's lawyers presented them as scapegoats and said the real masterminds were four North Koreans accused alongside them, who fled Malaysia shortly after the murder.

In a stunning move, prosecutors dropped murder charges against Huong and her co-defendant, Indonesian Siti Aisyah, who was released from custody in March.

A Malaysian court ordered her release after Huong pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of causing injury on goal by employing unsafe means on April 13. She was awarded a prison sentence of three years and four months but was given credit for time served plus customary sentence reductions.

Doan Thi Huong's release likely closes the case, since four North Koreans named as co-conspirators in the 2017 slaying are not in custody.

Ahead of her arrival, Huong's father, Doan Van Thanh, told Reuters he was planning to celebrate his daughter's return with a large party in their village.

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Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam and Indonesian Siti Aisyah were arrested after being spotted on CCTV approaching Kim Jong-nam, but they denied murder.

"The planners, organizers, and overseers of the assassination of Kim Jong Nam have indeed 'gotten away with it.' No one will be held responsible for this horrific attack in which a weapon of mass destruction was used to kill a human being in an worldwide airport", former Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Evans Revere told CNN.

In a letter shared by Huong's lawyers ahead of her departure from Kuala Lumpur, Huong thanked the governments of Vietnam and Malaysia for their support.

Pyongyang has never admitted to killing Kim Jong Nam - it claims the dead man was a North Korean citizen called Kim Chol, and that the accusations are an attempt to smear it.

"I still don't really know what to do next", said Huong.

Still, there is speculation that Kim Jong Un felt threatened by the older half-sibling, who criticized the regime from afar. Intent to kill is crucial to a murder charge under Malaysian law.

The killing on February 13, 2017, was an assassination worthy of a spy thriller, capturing global headlines and featuring a cast of North Korean agents using pseudonyms, and young female migrant workers allegedly trained to be crack assassins.

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