Malaysian Attorney General Tommy Thomas has ordered a murder case to proceed against a Vietnamese woman accused in the killing of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s estranged half-brother, prosecutors said in court yesterday.
Prosecutor Iskandar Ahmad gave no explanation for the refusal to drop the murder charge against Doan Thi Huong, who is the only suspect in custody after a stunning decision on Monday to drop a case against Indonesian Siti Aisyah.
Huong’s lawyer, Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, told the court that they were disappointed with the attorney general’s decision and said that prosecutors were being unfair to Huong.
“It does not bring confidence to our criminal justice system. Very obviously, there is discrimination. The AG [attorney general] favored one party to the other,” Teh said.
He also sought a deferment of the trial, saying that Huong has been unwell since Aisyah’s release and is not in a position to testify.
Huong stood in the dock and responded to the judge’s questions on the deferment request, saying that she was under significant stress.
“I have no idea what is going on,” she said.
The judge agreed to postpone the trial until April 1, but warned that there should be no more delay.
The defense phase of the trial was scheduled to begin on Monday.
Huong looked tired and was sobbing as she spoke to Vietnamese embassy officials after the court hearing ended.
Vietnamese Ambassador to Malaysia Le Quy Quynh said that he was “very disappointed” with the attorney general’s decision.
Vietnam’s justice minister had written to Thomas seeking Huong’s release, he said, adding that that Vietnam would keep lobbying Malaysia to free her.
“We will request Malaysia to have fair judgement and release her as soon as possible,” he said.
A Vietnamese delegation said that Huong told them she was happy for Aisyah, but that she was also innocent.
The two women were the only people in custody after four North Korean suspects fled the country on the morning of Feb. 13, 2017, when Kim Jong-nam was poisoned with VX nerve agent.
Aisyah and Huong have said that they thought they were taking part in a prank for a TV show.
A Malaysian high court judge in August last year found that there was enough evidence to infer that Aisyah, Huong and the four missing North Koreans engaged in a “well-planned conspiracy” to kill Kim Jong-nam.
Lawyers for the women have previously said that 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 do not want the trial politicized.
Kim Jong-nam 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.
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