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Malaysia rejects Vietnam’s request to free woman in murder trial

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's Attorney-General yesterday rejected Vietnam's request to free a woman accused of the murder of Mr Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korea's leader, and a court set April 1 for her trial to resume.

Vietnam's call had followed Monday's release, at Indonesia's request, of an Indonesian woman, who had been accused along with the Vietnamese, Doan Thi Huong.

Huong and Ms Siti Aisyah were charged with killing Kim by smearing his face with VX poison, a banned chemical weapon, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in February 2017.

Huong's lawyer Hisyam Teh told the court the rejection of Vietnam's request was "perverse" and a case of discrimination, as the Attorney-General had favoured one party, since the court had ordered both to enter their defence.

Vietnam's ministers of justice and foreign affairs are communicating with their Malaysian counterparts to secure his client's release, Mr Teh added. The trial featured video recordings of two women allegedly assaulting Mr Kim. In one, a woman identified as Huong puts her hands on Mr Kim's face, while a blurry image shows someone identified as Ms Siti hurrying away.

Mr Teh rejected speculation that Ms Siti's release was due to a lack of video evidence, saying the court had already established a case against both.

"So it makes no difference if Doan's image was caught on camera," he said.

Defence lawyers have maintained the women were pawns in an assassination.

After the ruling, Huong was seen sobbing as she spoke with Vietnamese embassy officials.

In Vietnam, her stepmother Nguyen Thi Vy said the decision saddened her.

"I don't understand why the other girl was released, but not my daughter," she said. "They were charged with the same thing; it's such an injustice." - REUTERS

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