Lawyers for Vietnam woman in Kim Jong Nam murder accuse Malaysia of 'discrimination' as her trial is postponed

Doan Thi Huong (in red headscarf) has asked the Malaysian government to withdraw the murder charge against her. PHOTO: REUTERS

SHAH ALAM - The lawyers for Doan Thi Huong, the Vietnamese woman accused of murdering the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, have accused the Malaysian government of "discimination" after an appeal for charges against Doan to be dropped in the same manner as those for Indonesian suspect Siti Aisyah was rejected.

A Malaysian prosecutor said on Thursday (March 14) that Doan, 30, would remain on trial for the gruesome murder of Kim Jong Nam with a toxic nerve agent at a busy Kuala Lumpur airport in 2017. Her trial that was supposed to start on Thursday has been postponed until April 1 after the court found that the accused was unfit to take the stand.

On Monday, Malaysia shocked the court by releasing Ms Siti Aisyah. Siti Aisyah and Doan had both been arrested for the murder.

According to a letter from Malaysia's Attorney-General Tommy Thomas to Indonesia's Minister of Law and Human Rights Yasonna Laoly, the charges were dropped after "taking into account the good relations" between the two countries

The A-G Chambers issued the order last Friday not to prosecute Ms Aisyah, 27, according to the letter revealed by the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. The Indonesian government had repeatedly lobbied for charges against Ms Siti Aisyah to be dropped and for her to be allowed to return home.

Doan's lead counsel Hisyam Teh Poh Teik said his team was "obviously disappointed with the position of the AG" for not withdrawing the charge against his client. He labelled it "discrimination" as the court has found a prima facie case against both Doan and Ms Aisyah.

"Both the accused persons ran the same kind of defence before this court. Both the accused stated through counsel that they were doing pranks. Both maintained through counsel that they were made scapegoats by North Korea.

"With respect, the decision not to withdraw is perverse. It does not speak well of our criminal justice system. It does not bring confidence to our criminal justice system. It's very obvious, my lord, that there is discrimination."

Throughout the proceeding, Doan appeared distraught and was sobbing.

The two women denied the murder, saying they believed they were taking part in a prank for a reality show and were tricked by North Korean agents into killing Mr Jong Nam by smearing VX nerve agent on his face at the Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017.

Ms Aisyah had been working as a masseuse in Kuala Lumpur, while Doan described herself as an entertainer.

Interpol issued a red alert for four North Koreans who Malaysian police identified as suspects and who left the country hours after the murder.

Mr Hisyam told the court that his client "has not been sleeping well for the last three nights".

"After March 11, she slept for about one hour per night. We are now at the crucial point of the case (where she is needed to testify)... under such circumstance, she is not able to.

"I ask, my lord, to show mercy and compassion to her to give her some space," he said, to which the request was granted.

Judge Azmi Ariffin told the High Court: "I wish to carry on with this case but unfortunately, from my observation... by looking at her (Doan), she is not well mentally and physically,"

"She must be given the opportunity to be attended by a doctor. I allow this adjournment solely on this ground. Furthermore, there is no objection from the prosecution."

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