Vietnamese woman in Kim Jong-nam murder case loses bid for release

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The Vietnamese woman accused of the murder of Kim Chol or Kim Jong-nam, elder brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, underwent a physical and mental examination today at the Kuala Lumpur Hospital.

A Malaysian court on Thursday announced it would temporarily postpone the trial of Vietnamese citizen Đoàn Thị Hương, a suspect in the murder of a North Korean national in 2017, due to her health condition, Vietnam News Agency reports.

The prosecutor did not give reason why charges were not being dropped for Ms Huong, 30, who is now the sole defendant on trial for Mr Kim's murder and could face death by hanging if convicted.

Huong's lawyer said he would make a second bid to get the charge against her dropped, and criticised the failure to free her following the release of the Indonesian, Siti Aisyah.

Huong's lawyer, Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, told the court that the decision was "perverse".

Vietnamese diplomatic efforts have proved less effective on the part of Doan, though Hisham confirmed that the embassy of Vietnam in Malaysia, as well as the Vietnamese minister of justice and minister of foreign affairs were "communication with the Malaysian government to secure the release of Doan Thi Huong".

Proceedings were scheduled to resume Monday with Huong testifying - but the unexpected release of Aisyah led to the trial being adjourned so the Vietnamese suspect could also seek her freedom.

Huong and Siti Aisyah were charged with killing Kim Jong Nam by smearing his face with VX poison, a banned chemical weapon, at Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017.

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Lawyers for the women have argued all along that they were pawns in a political assassination with clear links to the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Their lawyers presented them as scapegoats and said the real killers were four North Koreans, who were suspected of being the masterminds behind the plot but fled Malaysia shortly after the assassination. "It's very obvious, my lord, that there is discrimination", he said.

A High Court judge last August had found 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. "More so in this case because two people were charged, but it was withdrawn against one but not against the other". They say the prosecution has failed to show the women had any intention to kill. The defense part of the trial was to have started Monday. Intent to kill is crucial to a murder charge under Malaysian law. She could be seen shaking as she pleaded with Vietnam embassy officials.

Huong's trial was postponed until April 1 after Doan's lawyer said she needed medical treatment. "I had hoped my daughter would be freed like the Indonesian woman", said her 66-year-old father Doan Van Thanh. "It's so unfair. The two of them were in this and now one got out, one can not".

Analysts have said the case against Aisyah appeared weaker since there was no video evidence of her accosting Kim at the airport.

The defence phase of the trial is expected to shift the focus onto the absent North Koreans.

The North denies the claim.

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