Vietnamese woman in North Korea murder case loses bid for release

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Doan Thi Huong broke down in tears as a prosecutor told a court the attorney-general in Malaysia had refused to drop a murder charge against her.

Vietnam has urged Malaysia to release the second woman accused of killing the estranged half brother of North Korea's leader after her co-defendant was unexpectedly set free this week.

Lawyers for the women have previously 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.

Huong's lawyers said they were deeply disappointed with the decision and the attorney general had a "moral obligation" to explain the reasoning given the global nature of the case.

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.

Proceedings were scheduled to resume Monday with Huong, 30, testifying - but the unexpected release of Aisyah lead to the trial being adjourned. The women claimed they had no idea they had been groomed by North Korean agents to carry out the murder and thought they were taking part in a prank TV show.

The court ordered Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Doan to enter their defence on the murder charge on August 16, 2018.

Ms Huong, who arrived at court in a bulletproof vest and red headscarf, has already been on trial for a year and a half.

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

In Huong's home village her father Doan Van Thanh, who had washed bed sheets in anticipation of her homecoming, was left heartbroken: 'I am very sad.

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"I am not angry that Siti has been freed".

The judge said Huong was not well enough to continue with the trial on Thursday, and adjourned proceedings until April 1. The Indonesian embassy flew her to Jakarta the same day. She thanked the Party, State and the Vietnamese Embassy in Malaysia for their help and support.

"It's so unfair. They were together, did the same thing", she said.

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

"So it makes no difference whatsover if Doan's image was caught on the CCTV camera, none at all", he said after the hearing.

During the prosecution phase of the trial, expert witnesses testified that acute VX poisoning caused Kim's death and the nerve agent was detected on his face, in his eyes and on his clothing.

Both women insist they are innocent.

Prosecutors have contended the women were trained assassins who knew they were handling poison because they carefully held out their hands away from their bodies and went to separate restrooms to wash their hands afterward. He had been living overseas for years but could have been seen as a threat to Kim Jong Un's rule.

Kim Jong-nam was the older half-brother of North Korea's authoritarian ruler, Kim Jong-un.

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