Kim Jong-Nam murder suspect loses bid for release

Lawyer Ramkarpal Singh speaks to reporters at the Shah Alam High Court

Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, center, is escorted by police as she leaves Shah Alam High Court in Malaysia on Thursday.

The two women were the only people in custody after four North Korean suspects fled the country the morning of February 13, 2017, when Kim Jong Nam was poisoned with VX nerve agent. Her lawyers said while she was happy that Siti Aisyah had been released, she was now feeling depressed and had slept for no more than an hour over the past three nights. "I am innocent. I want my family to pray for me". They did not offer any explanation but it followed intense lobbying from the Indonesian government.

The judge said Ms Huong was not well enough to continue with the trial today, and adjourned proceedings until 1 April.

Vietnamese ambassador to Malaysia, Le Quy Quynh, told AFP at the court: "I'm very disappointed that the court did not free Doan".

Their lawyers presented them as scapegoats and said the real killers were four North Koreans.

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 over another, since the court had ordered both to enter their defence.

Defence lawyers have maintained the women were pawns in an assassination orchestrated by North Korean agents.

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

On Monday a murder charge was unexpectedly withdrawn against the Indonesian woman accused alongside her, Siti Aisyah, raising hopes that Ms Huong might also be freed imminently.

The trial began in October 2017 but there had been no hearings since August past year when the prosecution finished presenting its case.

Huong's lawyer sought a deferment of the trial Thursday, saying she was unwell and needed medical treatment.

Since Aisyah's release, Vietnam has stepped up pressure - the country's justice minister has also written to the Malaysian government seeking Huong's release and the Vietnamese foreign minister has pressed his Malaysian counterpart on the issue. Aisyah and Huong have said they thought they were taking part in a prank for a TV show.

In a statement, Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh said subjecting Doan to further prosecution, but not her co-accused, "particularly when a prima facie case has been found against both of them is, with respect, unprecedented and regrettable".

Abdul Rashid Ismail, a leading Malaysian criminal lawyer who was not involved in the case, said the decision to prosecute Huong but not Aisyah was "clearly unfair".

Huong would face a death sentence if she is convicted of murder.

South Korea has accused the North of ordering the assassination of Mr Kim Jong Nam, the estranged relative of Mr Kim Jong Un and once seen as heir apparent to the North's leadership. The North denies the claim.

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