A High Court in Shah Alam has ordered the release of the Vietnamese woman identified as Doan Thi Huong, who was accused of assassinating the North Korean leader’s half-brother, the Malaysian government dropped murder charges against her Monday, weeks after her Indonesian co-accused was also released.
The 2017 killing of Kim Jong Nam with a toxic nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport shocked the world, but Doan Thi Huong’s guilty plea to the lesser charge of “causing injury” makes her the only person convicted in the case.
Malaysia allowed the two women’s suspected North Korean handlers to leave in the days after the murder, amid a furious diplomatic row as Seoul accused Pyongyang of plotting the Cold War-style hit.
The pair, who claimed they were tricked into carrying out the killing, were put on trial facing a murder charge.
But last month the charge against Indonesian suspect Siti Aisyah was dropped and on Monday, prosecutors withdrew the charge against the second accused, Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam, and replaced it with a lesser one.
She pleaded guilty to “causing injury” and was handed a three year and four-month jail term, with her lawyers saying she would be freed next month due to sentence reductions. The women would have been sentenced to death by hanging if convicted of murder.
While there was a relief for Huong, the outcome means her conviction is the only one over the sensational assassination of Kim Jong Un’s estranged relative, who was seen as an heir apparent to the North Korean leadership until he fell out of favour.
Huong, a 30-year-old former hair salon worker who had been living a precarious existence among Malaysia’s army of migrant workers before her arrest, said she was “happy” after the verdict was handed down.
“This is a fair sentence,” she told reporters at the High Court in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur. “This is a fair judgement; I thank the Malaysian government and the Vietnamese government.”
Her father Doan Van Thanh, who was at court, said he planned to “host a big party to welcome my youngest daughter back home”.