Release bid fails for Vietnamese woman in Kim Jong Nam murder

Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong is escorted by Malaysian police at the Shah Alam High Court outside Kuala Lumpur

The father of a Vietnamese woman accused of killing the half-brother of North Korea's leader had washed bedding in anticipation of her homecoming after her Indonesian co-accused was suddenly freed earlier this week.

Prosecutors say Malaysia's attorney general has ordered the murder case to proceed against a Vietnamese woman accused in the killing of the North Korean leader's half brother.

Doan Thi Huong, 30, in bullet-proof attire, was brought to the hospital under heavy guard in a van of the Prisons Department at 9.20 am and left at 10.40 am, said her lawyer, Salim Bashir.

Huong's lawyer said he would make a second bid to get the charge against her dropped, and criticised the failure to free her following the release of the Indonesian, Siti Aisyah.

Huong's lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik was more blunt, telling the court the decision was "perverse".

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.

While Aisyah's release was partly political, the case against her was also seen as weaker as her lawyers have told the court there was no video evidence showing her accosting Kim at the airport, said Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow with Singapore's Institute of International Affairs. He said Huong only slept one hour each night since Aisyah's release.

Both women have always denied murder, insisting they were tricked by North Korean spies into assassinating Kim by smearing a nerve agent on his face, and believed it was a prank for a reality TV show.

Analysts said Aisyah's release was in part due to politics and the improved relations between Indonesia and Malaysia that have come since Mahathir Mohamad returned to the Malaysian premiership previous year after the stunning election defeat of Najib Razak.

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Teh said, "Very obviously, there is discrimination".

Last August, a High Court judge found there was enough evidence to show that Aisyah, Huong and the four North Koreans had worked together on a plan to kill Kim. "More so in this case because two people were charged, but it was withdrawn against one but not against the other". "I have no idea what is going on", she said. Intent to kill is crucial to a murder charge under Malaysian law. Speaking to Vietnam embassy officials she shook violently, and pleaded with them.

Huong's trial was postponed until April 1 after Doan's lawyer said she needed medical treatment. They also said that government lawyers failed to prove that the women had aimed to kill Kim.

Who was Kim Jong-nam?

She could face death by hanging if found guilty of the assassination.

The trial featured airport video recordings of two women allegedly assaulting Kim Jong Nam while he prepared to check in for a flight.

The defense part of the trial is expected to discuss the role of the four North Koreans, who fled the country and are believed to now be home in Pyongyang.

Malaysian officials have never officially accused North Korea in the case and have made it clear they don't want the trial politicized.

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