Vietnam thanks Malaysia for verdict in murder of North Korean

By Viet Anh, Pham Du   April 1, 2019 | 12:26 am PT
Vietnam thanks Malaysia for verdict in murder of North Korean
Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong (C) is escorted by Malaysian police out of the High Court in Shah Alam on April 1, 2019. Photo by AFP/Mohd Rasfan
Vietnam has said thanks as Malaysia is set to free Vietnamese woman charged in the death of North Korean Kim Chol.

"We're really happy now that Doan Thi Huong will soon be released. We would like to thank the Malaysia government, Attorney General and prosecutors for this verdict," Le Quy Quynh, Vietnamese ambassador to Malaysia, told VnExpress Monday.

Quynh also expressed gratitude to Malaysian lawyers and the Vietnam Bar Federation for their efforts and cooperation in protecting Huong’s rights.

He insisted that Huong, 30, was a victim in this case, just like her co-accused, Siti Aisyah from Indonesia, who was released last month.

Doan Thi Huong has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge that she "purposely caused injury" to Kim by employing "dangerous means" in attacking him with VX at Kuala Lumpur Airport, rather than the original murder charge, which carries a mandatory death penalty.

She was sentenced to three years and four months in jail beginning from her arrest in February 2017. Her legal team has said that with usual sentence reductions, she would be released next month.

"In the first week of May, she will go home," lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik told reporters at the Shah Alam High Court outside Kuala Lumpur.

Nguyen Thi Vy, Huong's stepmother, said she was "very happy" learning the news that Huong is coming home. "She did not cry anymore. She looked much better than in the trial last month," Vy said, referring to the last trial when expectations that Huong's murder charge would be dropped, like Aisyah's, were crushed.

Huong's father has come to Malaysia to attend the Monday trial.

"He called home this morning to inform the result. He laughed loudly on the phone," Vy said.

Both Huong and Aisyah consistently denied the murder charges against them, saying they were tricked into carrying out the assassination that shocked the world. Both said they believed it was a prank for a reality TV show.

Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor, president of the Malaysian Bar, said the decision to release Doan Thi Huong was a positive one.

Based on the actual events of the entire trial, changing the accusation against Huong was a good thing, he said.

When she is released, it will mean that no one is facing murder charges for the February 2017 killing of Kim Chol, believed to be Kim Jong-un's half brother, who was once considered heir apparent to the North Korean leadership until he fell out of favor.

South Korea has accused North Korea of ordering the hit, a claim vehemently denied by Pyongyang, according to AFP.

When Huong's initial bid for immediate release was rejected last month, Vietnam had expressed disappointment and stepped up pressure on Malaysia to free her.

A murder conviction carries the mandatory penalty of death by hanging in Malaysia. The government vowed last year to scrap capital punishment, but has recently indicated that it might backtrack.

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