Vietnamese in Jong Nam case gets mental health check

Vietnamese in Jong Nam case gets mental health check

On Thursday, the same court ruled that Doan's trial could proceed, but would be postponed until 1 April after she was declared "mentally and physically" unfit to testify.

A Vietnamese woman suspected of assassinating the North Korean leader's half-brother lost her bid for immediate release Thursday as Malaysian authorities refused to drop a murder charge, days after her Indonesian co-accused was freed.

The murder trial of the other woman - Doan Thi Huong, 30, of Vietnam - was put on hold.

The decision to move forward with Huong's case was slammed by both her lawyer and Vietnam's ambassador, who had hoped she would be given the same leniency as Aisyah.

Vietnamese Ambassaador Le Quy Quynh said he was "very disappointed" with the attorney general's decision.

Vietnam had increased pressure on Malaysia to release Huong since Aisyah was freed, with the foreign minister this week pressing his Malaysian counterpart on the issue and the justice minister writing to the attorney-general.

Proceedings were scheduled to resume Monday with Huong testifying - but the unexpected release of Aisyah led to the trial being adjourned so the Vietnamese suspect could also seek her freedom. He said Huong only slept one hour each night since Aisyah's release.

Huong and Aisyah were accused of smearing the toxic VX nerve agent on Kim's face in an airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on February 13, 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.

Her lawyers say she is a scapegoat and the masterminds were four North Koreans who fled Malaysia shortly after the assassination.

"Both the accused have said they were made scapegoats by North Korea, both of them said they were doing video pranks - very obviously there is discrimination", added Hisyam Teh Poh Teik.

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A High Court judge last August had found there was enough evidence to infer that Aisyah, Huong and the four missing North Koreans engaged in a "well-planned conspiracy" to kill Kim Jong Nam. "The AG favored one party to the other", Teh said. The defense phase of the trial was to have begun Monday. Under Malaysian law, intent to kill is critical to a murder charge.

Huong's father, Doan Van Thanh, said: "We are very shocked, very sad and we don't understand why it turned out this way".

Hương said she was innocent and wished to continue receiving support from relevant agencies.

Both women have said that they thought they were playing a prank, and had no idea their actions would have deadly consequences.

The decision means that Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam will remain as the only suspect in the case still behind bars.

"It's so unfair. They were together, did the same thing", she said.

Huong could face a death sentence if she is found guilty of the charges.

The murder of Kim Jong Nam triggered a nationwide manhunt and a diplomatic crisis.

During the trial, the court saw airport CCTV footage showing Huong approaching Kim, placing her hands on his face and then running away.

South Korea has accused the North of ordering the hit, which Pyongyang denies.

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