Vietnamese suspect in KL airport murder escapes death penalty, Latest World News - The New Paper

Vietnamese suspect in KL airport murder escapes death penalty

This article is more than 12 months old

Murder charges dropped against Vietnamese woman accused of killing half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

KUALA LUMPUR A Vietnamese woman accused of killing the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un escaped the death penalty on Monday, after Malaysian prosecutors dropped a murder charge against her.

Doan Thi Huong, 30, was offered an alternative charge of causing harm, which she pleaded guilty to. A judge sentenced her to more than three years in prison, though her lawyers said she could walk free as early as next month.

Huong and an Indonesian woman, Siti Aisyah, were charged with killing Mr Kim Jong Nam by smearing his face with VX poison, a lethal chemical weapon, at Kuala Lumpur's main airport in February 2017. Siti Aisyah walked free last month after prosecutors dropped the charge against her.

South Korean and US officials have said the North Korean regime had ordered the assassination of Mr Kim Jong Nam, who had been critical of his family's dynastic rule. Pyongyang has denied the allegation.

Malaysia had come under criticism for charging the two women with murder - which carries a mandatory death penalty in the country - when the key perpetrators of the attack were believed to be still at large.

Prosecutors yesterday offered Huong an alternative charge of 'causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means'.

The reduced charge was offered after receiving representations from the Vietnamese embassy and the woman's lawyers, they said.

Judge Azmi Ariffin sentenced Huong to three years and four months in prison for the reduced charged, adding that Huong was "a very, very lucky person indeed."

Vietnamese officials in court applauded after the ruling.

Wearing a red baju kurung, a traditional Malay dress and a headscarf, Huong stood and nodded as the judge delivered the sentence. She later told reporters that she would like to pursue singing and acting after she's freed.

"I'm very happy. I want to sing and act," she said, beaming at reporters.

Before her arrest, Huong worked at an entertainment outlet, Malaysian police said. A woman who closely resembled Huong sang on the Vietnam Idol talent show in June 2016.

Speaking from her rural family home in the Red River delta, 130 km from Hanoi, Huong's stepmother Ms Nguyen Thi Vy said the family was most worried about the death penalty.

"No death penalty is good enough for now," said Ms Vy, who works as a cleaner at a local market and raises ducks and chickens for extra income.

Huong, who has already served two years in jail, could be released by May 4 as Malaysia allows one-third remission off all prison sentences, her lawyer Mr Hisyam Teh said.

He said Huong had been "naive and gullible" but she was not a criminal. Some of the North Korean suspects in the case "exploited her weaknesses... to carry out their evil design," he said.

Defence lawyers have maintained the women were pawns in an assassination orchestrated by North Korean agents. The women said they thought they were part of a reality prank show and did not know they were poisoning Mr Kim.

Four North Korean men were also charged, but they left Malaysia after the murder and remain at large.- REUTERS