Three weeks after charges were suddenly dropped against her Indonesian co-defendant, 30-year-old Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam pled guilty to lesser charges and was sentenced to three years and four months in jail for the murder of Kim Jong-nam, half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.
Kim Jong-nam was killed with VX nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in February 2017. The poisonous chemical was spread on his face by Huong and another young woman, Siti Aisyah of Indonesia, in what they claim was presented to them as a harmless TV-show prank by a group that turned out to be North Korean agents. The charges against Aisyah were dropped in March after the Indonesian government lobbied on her behalf.
Huong’s trial was temporarily suspended after Aisyah was freed, but she still faced a murder charge that could have carried the death penalty. Her appeal for leniency was rejected, so on Monday she pled guilty to “voluntarily causing harm with a dangerous weapon,” which carries a maximum penalty of ten years in Malaysia.
The murder charge against Huong was dropped after she entered her plea, and given that she has been in custody for over two years already and has displayed good behavior, her lawyer expected her to be released by the first week of May. Vietnam’s ambassador to Malaysia predicted she would be freed even sooner. Huong pronounced herself “happy” with the plea deal.
Huong’s lawyer said the four North Koreans who set up the deadly “prank” are the “real assassins.” He said the North Koreans exploited Huong’s “weakness” and “manipulated her to carry out their evil designs under the camouflage of funny videos and pranks.”
The North Korean agents remain at large despite a “red notice” from Interpol, the equivalent of an international arrest warrant. The North Korean government vehemently denies any role in Kim Jong-nam’s death.