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Vietnam woman in North Korea murder case has release bid rejected

14 March 2019

Vietnam has urged Malaysia to release the second woman accused of killing the estranged half brother of North Korea's leader after her co-defendant was unexpectedly set free this week.

Doan Thi Huong broke down in tears as a prosecutor announced the attorney-general had rejected a request to free her and her trial would continue.

Huong and Siti, 27, were charged with the murder of Kim Jong Nam in the concourse area of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport by smearing his face with a toxic nerve agent and the court ruled last August that there was sufficient evidence for the case to proceed.

She told reporters: "Only God knows that we did not commit the murder". "Please call my father, call my family, and ask for them to pray for me".

Huong made headlines after she was pictured posing for a Facebook selfie in an image posted online just days before the assassination.

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It is thought that diplomatic pressure from Indonesia, in particular President Joko Widodo who is facing an election next month, contributed to the Malaysian government's decision to drop the charges against Siti.

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.

"This means that the court takes the view that if Doan and Siti Aisyah were to remain silent in their defence, they would be convicted of the murder of Jong Nam on the evidence presented by the prosecution so far".

CCTV footage showed one of them placing her hands over his face, then both women leaving the scene.

The trial began in October 2017 but there had been no hearings since August past year when the prosecution finished presenting its case.

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He also sought a deferment of the trial, saying Huong has been unwell since Aisyah's release and is not in a position to testify.

Malaysian authorities have rejected a plea to drop the murder case against Doan Thi Huong, the Vietnamese woman accused of killing the half-brother of North Korea's leader.

The judge said Huong was not well enough to continue with the trial on Thursday, and adjourned proceedings until April 1.

A murder conviction carries a mandatory penalty of death by hanging in Malaysia. The government vowed a year ago to scrap capital punishment but has indicated recently it may backtrack on the plan. He said Vietnam's justice minister had written to the Malaysian attorney-general seeking Huong's release and that Vietnam would keep lobbying Malaysia to free her.

"The way I see it she's not there physically or mentally", the judge said having met her in chambers prior to the start of the hearing. The government gave us the best support but the other side could not solve it, what can we do'.

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Responding to news about the AG's rejection of the application from Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong's lawyers for a withdrawal, the DAP national legal bureau chairman said it raised questions about the AG's absolute power to decide prosecutions in the country.

Vietnam woman in North Korea murder case has release bid rejected