Malaysia releases Vietnamese woman accused of murder

Vietnam suspect in Kim Jong Nam’s killing freed from prison

The Vietnamese woman accused of the 2017 killing of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korea's leader, has been released, her lawyer says.

Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong's lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, shows a letter written by Doan during a news conference at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia May 3, 2019.

The same day, Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said Huong's release and return to Vietnam was "a result of collective efforts to protect citizens by the government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vietnam Bar Federation, Malaysian lawyers and other agencies".

Then last month, they withdrew murder charges against Huong, who pleaded guilty to a count of "causing injury" and was told she would be released this month at the end of her sentence.

The Associated Press noted on Friday that because Malaysia never formally accused North Korea of orchestrating the murder, Huong's release effectively closes the case, turning Kim Jong-nam's murder in broad daylight at a crowded airport with a banned chemical weapon into an unsolved mystery.

Huong's whereabouts were not known, but Teh said immigration officials would escort her to the plane.

Aisyah was freed in March and returned to Indonesia when prosecution chose to drop charges.

Huong, along with an Indonesian woman Siti Aisyah, were charged with the murder of Kim Jong-nam in February 2017.

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The pair were arrested after they were captured on airport CCTV cameras walking up behind Kim, the estranged half-brother of Kim Jong Un, as he waited for a flight, and one was seen clasping her hands over his face.

Huong has come home with a criminal record, so if she breaks the law in Vietnam, she would be considered a repeat offender, said Do Ngoc Thinh, chairman of the Vietnam Bar Federation.

The assassination drew global attention for its audacity and diplomatic implications, with South Korean and Western officials accusing North Korea of a state-sponsored hit.

The four North Koreans left Malaysia the day Kim was killed.

They said they were tricked into carrying out the killing as innocent victims of an elaborate North Korean plot.

Still, there is speculation that Kim Jong Un felt threatened by the older half-sibling, who criticized the regime from afar.

Ties have improved in recent times, however, with Malaysia saying it plans to reopen its embassy in Pyongyang, which was closed shortly after the murder. He had been living overseas for years but could have been seen as a threat to Kim Jong Un's rule. The women said they thought they were part of a reality prank show and did not know they were poisoning Kim.

Lawyers for the women have said that they were pawns in a political assassination.

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