SINGAPORE — A Vietnamese woman who is the sole remaining suspect in custody over the killing of Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was sentenced on Monday after pleading guilty to a lesser weapons charge and is expected to be released next month, her lawyer said.
Doan Thi Huong, 30, is one of the two foreign women who were accused of killing the North Korean leader’s elder brother. The two were allegedly responsible for delivering the potent VX nerve agent that killed Kim Jong Nam in an airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in February 2017.
They both say that they were tricked into participating by men who were probably North Korean agents and had been told they were taking part in a prank for a reality television show.
On Monday, Huong, who initially was charged with murder, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of causing hurt by a dangerous weapon. She was sentenced to 40 months in prison from the date of her arrest but has already served more than half that time and will be released in early May after a sentence reduction.
“She is jubilant about the sentence [and] that she can go back home,” said Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, her lawyer.
The second woman, Siti Aisyah, a 27-year-old Indonesian, was freed in March and allowed to return to her home country after high-level government negotiations and lobbying.
The judge presiding over the case, Azmi Ariffin, said the brief imprisonment and the lesser charge would “serve the interest of justice.” He urged Huong to consider herself lucky for escaping a murder charge, which carries a mandatory death sentence in Malaysia. Lawyers for Huong had argued that she was naive and gullible and was “manipulated” to “perform evil.”
“I must say that you are a very lucky person today,” said the judge, speaking to Huong in court. The defendant appeared to nod as the charges were read, and she thanked the judge through her interpreter.
The Vietnamese ambassador to Malaysia, Le Quy Quynh, said he was “highly appreciative” that Huong would be freed.
Kim Jong Nam was the eldest son of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and had lived abroad since 2003. Kim Jong Il died in 2011 and was succeeded by Kim Jong Un, who then set about consolidating power.
Jonathan Edward in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report.