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Vietnamese Defendant in Kim Jong Nam Murder Leaves Malaysia after Release

Hadi Azmi and Aminah Farid
Kuala Lumpur
2019-05-03
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Doan Thi Huong speaks to journalists in Hanoi after she arrived in the Vietnamese capital on a flight following her release from a Malaysian prison where she had been held as a suspect in the killing of Kim Jong Nam, May 3, 2019.
Doan Thi Huong speaks to journalists in Hanoi after she arrived in the Vietnamese capital on a flight following her release from a Malaysian prison where she had been held as a suspect in the killing of Kim Jong Nam, May 3, 2019.
AFP

Updated at 1 p.m. ET on 2019-05-03

The final defendant charged with murdering the half-brother of North Korea’s dictator in a chemical weapons attack at a Kuala Lumpur airport left prison and flew home to Vietnam on Friday evening, bringing to a close legal battles in the two-year-old case, her lawyer said.

Doan Thi Huong, a Vietnamese national who will turn 30 at the end of May, was released from Kajang prison near Kuala Lumpur on Friday morning, where she had been held since her arrest shortly after the assassination of Kim Jong Nam on Feb. 13, 2017.

“The case has come to an end,” defense attorney Hisyam Teh Poh Teik told journalists, adding that the prosecution had filed no appeals over the Shah Alam High Court’s decision last month to allow her to plead guilty to a lesser charge and serve out her sentence.

In a video taken by one of her lawyers on the plane just before it took off, Doan expressed thanks for all those who prayed for her, according to the Associated Press. “I want to say I love you all. I thank you my Lord Jesus. Thank you so much,” she said in the video.

Later, after arriving in Hanoi, Huong said she was not sure what she wanted to do next, “but I think I want to become an actor.” She also spoke about her time in custody, according to AP.

“What scared me the most when I was in prison was the loneliness and homesickness,” she said. “My condition in the prison was good. They did not treat me badly.”

Malaysian prosecutors and other government officials did not comment Friday on Doan’s release.

Doan and Indonesian Siti Aisyah were charged with murdering the estranged sibling of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by accosting Kim Jong Nam at the departure hall at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) and smearing VX, an internationally banned nerve agent, on his face. He died moments later while being taken to a local hospital.

The prosecution case, which ran from October 2017 to June 2018, featured 34 witnesses and airport security footage showing two women approaching Kim Jong Nam and then heading to separate restrooms.

In a move that caught court observers by surprise, Attorney General Tommy Thomas in March announced that charges against Siti were being dropped. She walked out of prison and quickly boarded a private jet to return to Indonesia where she and her family met with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo the next day.

Her co-defendant, Doan, remained in prison and on trial for Kim’s murder. Doan, who required psychiatric evaluation at the Kuala Lumpur General Hospital following Siti’s release, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of causing injury through dangerous means and was cleared to be released after serving two-thirds of a three-year, four-month sentence.

Doan left the Kajang women’s prison Friday morning in an unmarked silver van escorted by an immigration department vehicle and was taken to the immigration headquarters in Putrajaya before being transported to Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Court interpreter Maridam Yacfar told reporters waiting outside the prison that Doan was no longer inside.

“I can confirm that Doan was released at 7:15 a.m. She looked happy,” Maridam said without offering additional comments before being taken to the Vietnamese embassy.

 

Letter read

Speaking to reporters at KLIA before flying to Hanoi on Friday night, Hisyam read a letter written by Doan thanking the Malaysian and Vietnamese governments, Judge Azmi Ariffin, Attorney General Tommy Thomas and the Vietnam Bar Federation.

“I thank so much for everybody who prayed for me in church and at home as well, thank you Lord Jesus for he loves me so much,” Doan said in the letter written Thursday before her release. “I am very happy and thank you all a lot. I love you all.”

She also thanked journalists for the support given to her.

“This means each and every one of you, she said a big thank you,” Hisyam said while gesturing to those who had gathered to cover her departure.

Hisyam and Doan’s other lawyers, Salim Bashir and Naran Singh, spoke to reporters at KLIA before boarding a 7:20 p.m. flight to accompany their client to Hanoi. She was not seen at the airport and the lawyers said she was taken directly to the plane.

Singh described Doan’s release to BenarNews as the “closing of a book.”

“We have been going back and forth to Hanoi ever since the start of the trial to discuss and report to the Vietnam Bar Federation, so this should be the last trip, closing the book,” he said.

The bar federation, a non-government organization, paid for Doan’s Malaysian lawyers to handle the case against her.

When asked if Doan might be facing danger in Vietnam because of her involvement, Naran said that he did not expect there to be any.

“To the four North Koreans who were involved, to them the job was done in 2017, so I don’t see why they need to take any extra risks,” Naran said.

Malaysian officials have said that the North Koreans who were believed to be suspects in Kim Jong Nam’s killing left the country hours later.

Naran added that the North Korean government was on good terms with Vietnam, referring to a summit in February between Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump that was hosted by Hanoi.

Malaysian defense attorney Hisyam Teh Poh Teik (right), flanked by colleague Narin Singh at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, shows a letter of thanks that Vietnamese client Doan Thi Huong wrote prior to her release from prison, May 3, 2019. [Hadi Azmi/BenarNews]
Malaysian defense attorney Hisyam Teh Poh Teik (right), flanked by colleague Narin Singh at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, shows a letter of thanks that Vietnamese client Doan Thi Huong wrote prior to her release from prison, May 3, 2019. [Hadi Azmi/BenarNews]

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