Vietnamese woman in assassination trial denied freedom

Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong is escorted by Malaysian police at the Shah Alam High Court outside Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia's attorney general ordered the murder case to proceed against a Vietnamese woman accused in the killing of the North Korean leader's estranged half brother, prosecutors said in court Thursday.

Both women were charged separately, but the charge against them is the same - that they worked with the four North Korean suspects to murder Kim.

"It's our complaint that the public prosecution has not acted fairly and justly to Doan Thi Huong", her lawyer Hisyam Teh, who asked for an adjournment on the grounds that his client was unwell.

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. He said Vietnam's justice minister had written to the Malaysian attorney general seeking Huong's release and that Vietnam will keep lobbying Malaysia to free her.

Teh rejected speculation that Siti Aisyah's release was due to a lack of video evidence against her, saying the court had already established a case against both.

Reluctantly agreeing to postpone the trial, the judge said: "I wish I could just carry on but the accused is clearly not mentally or physically fit to testify".

Two women were accused of smearing a toxic nerve agent on the face of Kim Jong Nam as he walked through a Kuala Lumpur airport terminal in 2017.

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.

Thanh said he felt painful watching the trial on the internet, seeing his daughter crying and not being able to be there for her. "It's very obvious, my lord, that there is discrimination", he said.

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It said that over the past two years, Aisyah's plight was raised in "every bilateral Indonesia-Malaysia meeting", including at the president's level, the vice-president's level and in regular meetings of the foreign minister and other ministers with their Malaysian counterparts. Intent to kill is crucial to a murder charge under Malaysian law.

"I have no idea what is going on", Huong said in the courtroom Thursday. The defense part of the trial was to have started Monday.

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.

Both women were facing murder charges over the death of Kim Jong-nam. She could be seen shaking as she pleaded with Vietnam embassy officials.

A murder conviction carries a mandatory penalty of death by hanging in Malaysia.

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

On Malaysia's request, Interpol has issued arrest warrant for the four men, who are believed to be back in Pyongyang, but North Korea is not a member of the organisation.

Kim Jong Nam was living in exile in Macau before the killing, having fled his homeland after his half-brother Kim Jong Un became North Korea's leader in 2011 following their father's death. He had been living overseas for years but could have been seen as a threat to Kim Jong Un's rule.

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