Murder charge dropped against Vietnamese in Jong Nam case

KUALA LUMPUR: Prosecutors dropped a murder charge against a Vietnamese woman accused of killing the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after she pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of causing harm using dangerous means.

Prosecutors told the court they made the offer of a reduced charge after receiving representations from the Vietnamese embassy and the woman’s lawyers.

Doan Thi Huong, 30, pleaded guilty to the alternative charge, which carries a jail term of up to ten years, financial penalty or whipping.

The judge sentenced her to three years and four months in jail from her arrest in February 2017.

Doan was accused of smearing Kim Jong Nam’s face with VX poison, a lethal chemical weapon, at klia2 in February 2017.

If she had been found guilty of murder, she would have faced a mandatory death penalty.

Doan had been charged together with Indonesian woman Siti Aisyah.

Prosecutors sprung a surprise last month by dropping the murder charge against Siti Aisyah, but later declined to do the same for Doan, despite appeals from the Vietnamese government. No reason was given for the decision.

Last year, a judge had called for Doan and Siti Aisyah to enter their defence, saying there was evidence that the women and four North Korean men were part of a “well-planned conspiracy” to kill the half-sibling of Jong Un. The men remain at large.

The women’s lawyers say they thought they were part of a reality prank show and did not know they were poisoning Jong Nam.

Doan’s lawyer, Hisyam Teh, told reporters outside the court that she would likely be freed in the first week of May, given the sentence reductions usually applied in the Malaysian system.