A Asia

Final Kim-Jong-nam murder suspect pleads guilty to lesser charges

On Monday a Vietnamese woman alleged to have killed Kim Jong-un’s half-brother Kim Jong-nam, pleaded guilty to lesser charges and was sentenced to three years and four months by Malaysian courts - starting from her arrest in 2017.

But it is thought Doan Thi Huong, 30, could be released as soon as May according to her lawyer and could have been given the death penalty if she was found guilty of Mr Kim’s murder.

She and former murder suspect Siti Aisyah, 27, who was freed on March 11, were accused of the killing at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in February 2017, where they were said to have used the toxic nerve agent VX on Mr Kim’s face – which resulted in him dying 20 minutes later.

Prosecutors argued both women were trained in assassinations and likened the murder to something “in a James Bond movie”, however, the defence claimed the women were told by North Korean co-conspirators that they were chosen to be in a reality TV show prank – which involved them smearing lotion on his face.

Siti Aisyah’s lawyer, Gooi Soon Seng commented after she was released: “We truly believe she’s a scapegoat and she is innocent as we laid out [before]… I still believe that North Korea has something to do with it”.

Now it is likely the murder case investigation will be dropped as no-one has been held to account for Kim-Jong-nam’s death.

The Vietnamese murder suspect Huong told reporters in court on Monday she was happy and thought it was a fair outcome, with her lawyers successfully arguing that she was “naïve and gullible” to be persuaded by the four alleged North Koreans.

At her sentencing, the Malaysian judge said she was “a lucky person because from the original charge of murder which carries a mandatory sentence of death, the prosecution has offered you an alternative charge”.

Although Huong’s defence lawyers always insisted the North Koreans were responsible, North Korea has strenuously denied any involvement in the murder. However, a friend of Kim-Jong-un’s half-brother, Alex Hwang, told Sky News that for years Mr Kim believed he could be targeted by Pyongyang after having been critical of the North Korean regime.

He said: “Kim Jong Nam was worried. Number one [concern] is kidnap, number two is killing. Any time, anybody could kill him or anybody could bring him to some other country and then kill him there.”

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