Vietnamese woman accused of Kim Jong-nam’s murder gets 40 months

Monday - 01/04/2019 12:11
Vietnamese woman Doan Thi Huong will likely not spend much time behind bars. Picture: APSource:AP
Vietnamese woman Doan Thi Huong will likely not spend much time behind bars. Picture: APSource:AP
A Vietnamese woman has been jailed over the 2017 assassination of Kim Jong-un’s brother, but the amount of time she will spend behind bars has surprised many.

Two years after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s half brother was killed, a Malaysian court has dropped the murder charge against the only suspect still in custody, and she pleaded guilty to a lesser offence and is expected to be released soon.

The defendant, Doan Thi Huong, 30, was one of two women who smeared VX nerve agent on the face of Kim Jong-nam, Kim Jong-un’s elder brother, in February 2017. She was ordered to serve 40 months in prison.

Kim 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.
 

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Picture: AFP
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

 

 
Kim Jong-nam was seen as a threat to his brother’s leadership. Picture; AP
Kim Jong-nam was seen as a threat to his brother’s leadership. Picture; APSource:AP

 

Lawyers for the women have previously said 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.

Malaysian officials have never officially accused North Korea and have made it clear they don’t want the trial politicised.

The murder charge the women had faced carried the death penalty if they were convicted. Huong nodded as a translator read the new charge to her: voluntarily causing injury with a dangerous weapon, VX nerve agent. Oh said he believed it was a “friendly gesture to Vietnam while paying due respect to the judicial process.”

While Huong may not have had any premeditated intent to kill Kim, she did apply the VX on his face and has to account for it, he said.
 

Vietnamese national, Doan Thi Huong (2nd R) is escorted by Malaysian police at the Shah Alam High Court, outside Kuala Lumpur. Picture: AFP
Vietnamese national, Doan Thi Huong (2nd R) is escorted by Malaysian police at the Shah Alam High Court, outside Kuala Lumpur. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

 

High Court Judge Azmi Ariffin sentenced Huong to three years and four months in prison from the day she was arrested on February 15, 2017. Huong’s lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik said his client is expected to be freed by the first week of May, after a one-third reduction in her sentence for good behaviour.

“I am happy,” Huong, 30, told reporters as she left the courtroom, adding that she thought it was a fair outcome.

While handing out a jail term short of the maximum 10 years the new charge carried, the judge told Huong she was “very, very lucky” and wished her “all the best.”

Vietnamese officials in the courtroom cheered when the decision was announced.

The move follows the Malaysian Attorney-General’s decision to drop the murder case against Aisyah on March 11 following high-level lobbying from Indonesia’s government. Huong sought to be acquitted after Aisyah was freed, but prosecutors rejected her request.

Prosecutor Iskandar Ahmad told the court that the Attorney-General offered the reduced charge to Huong following pleas from the Vietnamese government and her lawyers.
 

Nguyen Thi Vy, stepmother of Doan Thi Huong, watches the news from Malaysia. Picture: AFP
Nguyen Thi Vy, stepmother of Doan Thi Huong, watches the news from Malaysia. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

 

The original charge had alleged that the two women colluded with four North Koreans to murder Kim with VX nerve agent as he passed through the airport. A High Court judge last August found there was enough evidence to infer that Aisyah, Huong and the four North Koreans engaged in a “well-planned conspiracy” to kill Kim and called on the two women to present their defence.

Huong’s lawyer told the court that her guilty plea to the lesser charge showed she “has taken responsibility” for her actions. In asking for a lenient sentence, he also told the court that her move saved judicial time. Hisyam had urged the judge to take into account Huong’s honesty, her acceptance of responsibility and the acquittal of her co-defendant.
 

Kim Jong-un’s brother had been living in exile in Japan. Picture: AP
Kim Jong-un’s brother had been living in exile in Japan. Picture: APSource:AP

 

“She is neither a criminal nor has the propensity to commit a crime,” the lawyer said. Huong, the youngest of five children, has a promising future with a degree in accounting, but she is also “naive and gullible,” he said.

Hisyam said the four North Korean suspects still at large were the “real assassins.” They “exploited her weakness and manipulated her to carry out their evil designs under the camouflage of funny videos and pranks,” he said.

The judge said he took into account the gravity of the offence and also the fact that Huong was remorseful and a first offender. He said the sentence “would serve the interest of justice.” Before the sentencing, Vietnam’s ambassador to Malaysia, Le Quy Quynh, said he expected Huong to be freed immediately. After the sentencing, he said, “I am highly appreciative that she will be released very soon but I want to emphasise that she is a victim like the Indonesian.”
 

Doan Thi Huong (R) and Indonesian defendant Siti Aishah (2nd, L) arrive at court in October, 2017. Picture: AFP
Doan Thi Huong (R) and Indonesian defendant Siti Aishah (2nd, L) arrive at court in October, 2017. Picture: AFPSource:AFP

 

Hisyam told reporters later that Huong wasn’t being fairly treated compared to Aisyah, but that she pleaded guilty because she wanted to walk free as soon as possible.

Huong’s father, Doan Van Thanh, who attended the hearing, said he was delighted that she will be soon be free.

As Huong was being escorted out of the court building, she shouted to reporters: “It’s very good. I love you.” She told reporters earlier that she wants to “sing and act” when she returns to Vietnam.

Source:

 Keywords: Kim Jong-un

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