KAJANG, Malaysia (AP) — A Vietnamese woman who was tried in the killing of the estranged half brother of North Korea’s leader was released from a Malaysian prison and planned to fly home later Friday, her lawyer said.
Doan Thi Huong’s release likely closes the case, since four North Koreans named as co-conspirators in the 2017 slaying are not in custody. Malaysian officials never officially accused North Korea and made it clear they didn’t want the trial politicized.
Vietnamese Embassy translator Maridam Yacfar told reporters at the prison outside Kuala Lumpur that Huong looked happy but couldn’t give further details.
Huong was the last suspect in custody after the Malaysian attorney general’s stunning decision in March to drop a murder case against her co-defendant, Indonesian Siti Aisyah, following high-level lobbying from Jakarta. Huong sought to be acquitted after Aisyah was freed, but prosecutors rejected her request. Aisyah returned home to Indonesia.
The two women were charged with colluding with the four North Koreans to murder Kim Jong Nam, leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother, with VX nerve agent. The women smeared the substance on his face in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13, 2017, and have said they thought they were taking part in a harmless prank for a TV show.
Huong’s lawyer, Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, said Huong was taken by immigration officials to their office to sort out her travel documents and would be sent to the airport to catch a flight later Friday.
Huong, 30, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of causing injury last month after prosecutors dropped a murder charge against her. She was sentenced to 40 months in prison from the day of her arrest and was released early for good behavior.
Hisyam told reporters at the airport that “the case has come to a complete end” because prosecutors didn’t file any appeal of the sentence given Huong.
Hisyam said he and two other defense lawyers would be on the same flight as Huong because they will give a final briefing on the case to the Vietnam Bar Federation, which had hired them. He read out a letter of gratitude written by Huong.
She thanked the Malaysian and Vietnamese governments and “everybody who prayed for me in church and at home as well,” he said.
“Thank you Lord Jesus for he loves me so much. I am very happy and thank you all a lot. I love you all,” she scribbled in the letter shown to reporters.
There was no sign of Huong at the airport and lawyers said she was likely to be escorted straight to the plane.
Hisyam earlier told The Associated Press that Huong was “smiling from ear to ear” when he met her at the prison on Thursday and that she looked forward to meeting her family and friends.
After her sentencing last month, Huong said she wants to “sing and act” when she returns to Vietnam.
The High Court judge last August had found there was enough evidence to infer that Aisyah, Huong and the four North Koreans engaged in a “well-planned conspiracy” to kill Kim and had called on the two women to present their defense.
The four North Koreans fled Malaysia the day Kim was killed.
Lawyers for the women have said that they were pawns in a political assassination with clear links to the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and that the prosecution failed to show the women had any intention to kill. Intent to kill is crucial to a murder charge under Malaysian law.
Kim Jong Nam was the eldest son in the current generation of North Korea’s ruling family. He had been living abroad for years but could have been seen as a threat to Kim Jong Un’s rule.