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Colin Zwirko is an NK News correspondent based in Seoul.
The only remaining suspect on trial in Malaysia for the 2017 murder of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother Kim Jong Nam was sentenced Monday to three years and four months in prison, following a guilty plea to new reduced charges earlier in the morning.
Vietnamese citizen Doan Thi Huong is expected to be released from prison in May, AFP reported, citing a statement from her lawyers following the sentencing.
The Malaysian Times reported that lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik pointed to typical sentence reductions that would be expected to be applied and that “in the first week of May, she will go home.”
The sentence would otherwise dictate her release in June 2020, starting from her initial arrest in February 2017.
According to Reuters, Doan Thi Huong accepted the charge of “voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous means,” down from the previous murder charges which carried a mandatory death sentence.
The new charge carried a maximum sentence of ten years “or with fine or with whipping or with any two of such punishments,” according to Section 324 of Malaysia’s Penal Code.
Kim Jong Nam was killed after reportedly being exposed to a lethal dose of the VX nerve agent in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in February 2017.
The murder was determined to have been carried out by Doan Thi Huong and the recently-released Siti Aisyah, who both claimed they believed they were participating in activities for a prank show.
Malaysian police also determined the crime was carried out with the help of several North Korean agents, though none were ultimately prosecuted and all are believed to have left the country.
Siti Aisyah is now back in Indonesia after being released on March 11 in a surprise decision the same day the defense phase of Doan Thi Huong’s trial was set to begin.
The charges were dropped after Malaysia’s Attorney General granted Jakarta’s political appeals to take “into account the good relations between our countries.”
But despite a similar political appeal by Vietnam made public around the same time, the court decided just days later that Doan Thi Huong’s murder trial would resume on April 1.
The latest decision to reduce her charges may, however, be a result of Hanoi’s political efforts after all.
A foreign ministry spokesperson said last Thursday that “Vietnam will continue taking the necessary measures at the highest level to ensure a fair trial and freedom for Doan Thi Huong,” according to VnExpress.
CNN then reported that Vietnamese ambassador to Malaysia Le Quy Quynh and “a large Vietnamese embassy entourage” were present in the courthouse Monday for the hearing.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: File photo/Royal Malaysian Police, edited by NK News