Vietnamese woman in N. Korea murder case seeks freedom

Vietnamese woman in N. Korea murder case seeks freedom

Wearing a bulletproof vest and a red headscarf, Doan Thi Huong arrived at the Malaysian court where she has been on trial for a year and a half over the 2017 assassination of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur airport.

A Vietnamese woman charged with assassinating the North Korean leader's half-brother has lost her bid for release in Malaysia, days after her Indonesian co-accused was freed.

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 the stunning decision to drop the case Monday against Indonesian Siti Aisyah.

Vietnamese ambassador to Malaysia, Le Quy Quynh, told AFP at the court: "I'm very disappointed that the court did not free Doan". He said Vietnam's justice minister had written to the Malaysian attorney-general seeking Huong's release and that Vietnam would keep lobbying Malaysia to free her.

Hương said she was innocent and wished to continue receiving support from relevant agencies.

Abdul Rashid Ismail, a leading Malaysian criminal lawyer who was not involved in the case, said the decision to prosecute Huong but not Aisyah was "clearly unfair". "Very obviously, there is discrimination", he said, according to the Associated Press. The AG favoured one party to the other, " Teh said.

She has been on trial for a year and a half over the 2017 assassination of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur airport that shocked the world.

Pyongyang, said to have viewed Kim as a political threat, has officially denied any involvement in his murder and four North Korean suspects remain at large.

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Both women have consistently denied the murder, claiming that they were tricked by North Korean spies into carrying out the killing and believed it was a prank for a reality TV show.

The court ordered Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Doan to enter their defence on the murder charge on August 16, 2018. He said Huong only slept an hour a night since Aisyah's release and was not in a position to testify.

"I have no idea what is going on, " a exhausted and pale-looking Huong, who was wrapped in a red headscarf and a coat, said through an interpreter.

As Huong broke down in the dock, the judge said she was in not fit state to testify and ordered that the trial be adjourned until April 1. The defense phase of the trial was to have begun Monday.

Huong was sobbing as she spoke to Vietnamese Embassy officials after Thursday's court hearing ended.

"I had hoped for good news today, but unfortunately there is none. Doan has a constitutional right to be treated the way Siti Aisyah was as she is entitled to equal protection of the law". "It's so unfair. The two of them were in this and now one got out, one can not".

Lawyers for Huong - who could face death by hanging if convicted - then asked the Malaysian government to withdraw the murder charge against her.

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