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Vietnamese suspect in Kim Jong-nam assassination returns home

By Pham Du, Bao Ha   May 3, 2019 | 05:32 pm PT
Vietnamese suspect in Kim Jong-nam assassination returns home
Doan Thi Huong arrives at Noi Bai Airport, Hanoi, in fur coat and sunglasses on Friday night. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy
The Vietnamese woman accused of assassinating a North Korean man, believed to be the North Korean leader’s half-brother Kim Jong-nam, returned home Friday.

After numerous trials, Doan Thi Huong was released from a prison outside the Malaysian capital in Selangor state on Friday morning. She arrived in Vietnam the same night, accompanied by Vietnamese diplomats.

Huong came out of the Noi Bai airport arrival gate looking cheerful and well-dressed. Doan Van Thanh, Huong’s father, was the only family member to welcome her home at the airport.

Huong told the press how thankful she was to the governments of Vietnam and Malaysia and to her lawyers. She was treated well in prison and still harbors the dream of becoming an actress and returning to Malaysia. After a brief talk, Huong and her father left for their hometown in Nam Dinh Province, 110 km south of Hanoi.

The same day, Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said Huong's release and return to Vietnam was "a result of collective efforts to protect citizens by the government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vietnam Bar Federation, Malaysian lawyers and other agencies."

Huong has come home with a criminal record, so if she breaks the law in Vietnam, she would be considered a repeat offender, said Do Ngoc Thinh, chairman of the Vietnam Bar Federation.

Vietnam and Malaysia have not signed a judicial agreement, but the ASEAN community goes by a mutual understanding of recognizing each other's practices and respecting the judicial activities of member countries.

The decision to discharge Huong from prison came after authorities dropped murder charges against her.

Both Huong and her co-accused Siti Aisyah from Indonesia, who was unexpectedly released earlier in March, had always denied the charge, saying they were tricked by some North Koreans into carrying out the assassination that shocked the world. They believed they were participating in a prank for a reality TV show when they smeared him with VX poison at the Kuala Lumpur Airport.

In a plea bargain, the 31-year-old former hair salon worker pleaded guilty to a new charge of "purposely causing injury" to Kim by employing "dangerous means." The original murder charge carries a mandatory death penalty in Malaysia.

With Huong’s narrow escape, no one faces murder charges for the February 2017 killing of Kim.

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.

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