Vietnam requests Kim Jong-nam murder suspect release

Indo Asian News Service

Hanoi, March 13 (IANS) Vietnam has requested Malaysia to release the Vietnamese woman charged with killing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's half brother in Kuala Kumpur, officials said on Wednesday.

Vietnamese Foreign minister Pham Binh Minh spoke Tuesday night with his Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah to begin diplomatic measures that could lead to the release of Doan Thi Huong, Efe news reported.

The request from Hanoi came a day after the release of another woman, Indonesian Siti Aisyah, owing to the intervention of Jakarta.

The Vietnamese defendant is scheduled to appear in court on March 14.

The two women allegedly assaulted Kim Jong-nam -- half brother of Kim Jong-un -- on February 13, 2017 at Kuala Lumpur airport, in an action that Seoul attributed to North Korean agents and which was captured on security cameras.

The pair have always maintained their innocence and said that they acted under the belief that they were participating in a joke for a television show when they sprayed the victim's face with a substance that they believed was harmless.

The testimony of Huong - who, if found guilty, could receive the death penalty - was scheduled for Monday, but after her co-defendant's release it was postponed until Thursday as her lawyers also requested the withdrawal of charges.

Kim Jong-Nam died on the way to hospital less than half an hour after receiving the poison that was identified as the VX nerve agent, a colourless and odourless oily liquid classified by the UN as a weapon of mass destruction.

According to the Malaysian investigation, the assassination was organized by four North Koreans: Ri Ji-hyon, Hong Song-hac, O Jong-gil and Ri Jae-nam, who hired the two women using different names and nationalities.

The whereabouts of the four suspects are currently unknown after they left Kuala Lumpur by plane hours after Kim's death and after witnessing the execution of the plan from a distance.

North Korea has denied any involvement in the plot and argued that the death of North Korean citizen Kim Chol - as Kim Jong-nam's name appears in the passport he used - was due to a heart attack.

--IANS

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