Published: Sat, March 16, 2019
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Lawyers: Decision not to free Viet accused is discrimination

Lawyers: Decision not to free Viet accused is discrimination

Malaysia's attorney general on Thursday rejected Vietnam's request to free a woman accused in the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korea's leader, and a court set April 1 for her trial to resume.

"In reference to the representation submitted on March 11 to the honourable attorney-general, we got an order to proceed with the case", lead prosecutor Muhammad Iskandar Ahmad told the High Court in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur.

Doan Thi Huong along with an Indonesian woman Siti Aisyah had been charged with the murder of Kim Jong-nam in February 2017, an offence punishable by hanging.

Indonesia had mounted a sustained diplomatic offensive to get Ms Aisyah freed, while Vietnam had only stepped up pressure since the Indonesian woman's release this week.

Prosecutors did not reveal why they rejected Huong's appeal but let Aisyah go free.

He said government lawyers were being unfair to Huong, because her case was similar to Aisyah's situation.

Huong stood in the dock and responded to the judge's questions on the deferment request, saying she suffered from tension and stress.

"She is not fit, physically and mentally, and I request for today's hearing to be postponed".

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Four North Koreans who fled Malaysia shortly after the murder were identified by police as suspects.

Lawyers for both women had asserted both made scapegoats in the assassination, alleging that North Korean agents had lured them into the plot to kill Kim by making them believe they were taking part in a prank for a reality show.

"As the AG need not give reasons for his decision, Doan will never know why she was treated differently from Siti Aisyah". There was security camera video of Huong with Kim. "Her case is the same as Siti Aisyah's".

"My message to the other woman workers, please don't easily trust the others".

Vietnam had increased pressure on Malaysia to release Huong since Aisyah was freed, with the foreign minister this week pressing his Malaysian counterpart on the issue and the justice minister writing to the attorney-general.

"You can look at her, she was crying this morning, she was depressed, and she didn't sleep, perhaps did not eat well as well", he said. They did not disclose whether Huong's detention was discussed during Kim Jong Un's visit last month to Hanoi, where he met US President Donald Trump and Vietnamese leaders.

Those meetings would have been unthinkable back in 2017, when Kim Jong Nam's assassination was widely seen as evidence of his half-brother's brutal but calculating leadership style.

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