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Vietnam asks Malaysia to free Doan Thi Huong in murder case

Updated at Wednesday, 13 Mar 2019, 07:43
The Hanoitimes - In a phone call with Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah on Monday, Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh asked Malaysia to ensure a fair trial and free Doan Thi Huong.
Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh has asked Malaysia to free Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong who is accused of murdering a North Korean citizen in Kuala Lumpur two years ago.
 
Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh calls Malaysian counterpart on March 12. Photo: Baoquocte
Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh calls Malaysian counterpart on March 12. Photo: Baoquocte
In a phone call with Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah on Monday [March 12], Minh asked Malaysia to ensure a fair trial and free Doan Thi Huong. 

Minh made the phone conversations one day after a Malaysian court dropped a similar charge against Indonesia's Siti Aisyah, another defendant in the same case. 

The two women have been accused of poisoning allegedly Kim Jong Nam, half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with toxic nerve agent VX at Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017 as he waited to board a flight to Macau. 

According to Reuters, if convicted, the defendants may face death penalty. 

Minh, who also doubles as Vietnam's deputy prime minister, stated that the Vietnamese leadership and people have paid close attention to the case and the trial proceedings. 

The court is slated to resume on Thursday. 

Surprise release

On Monday, Siti Aisyah was freed after the Shah Alam High Court approved the prosecutors’ request to drop the murder charge against her. 

The release of Siti, therefore, surprised global media. The Guardian called it “a shock decision” while Singapore-based The Straits Times reported that the court “took a surprise turn” as no reason was given for the request. 

 
Indonesian co-suspect Siti Aisyah on March 11. Photo: Benarnews
Indonesian co-suspect Siti Aisyah on March 11. Photo: Benarnews
“We are pleased with the court decision. We will try to fly Siti back to Indonesia today or as soon as possible,” Indonesian Ambassador to Malaysia Rusdi Kirana was quoted by The Straits Times as saying.

The case

 
Doan Thi Huong at a court on March 11. Photo: Malaymail
Doan Thi Huong at a court on March 11. Photo: Malaymail
Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, who represents Doan, asked the court to postpone Monday’s proceeding, where his client was initially scheduled to testify for the first time. 
 
Both Doan Thi Huong, 30, and Siti Aisyah, 26, denied the accusation, saying that they were hired to participate in a reality TV prank show. Both of them claimed they had unknowingly been tricked into carrying out the attack.

The Straits Times reported that Siti Aisyah’s lawyer Gooi Soon Seng told reporters that they still believe that she was merely a scapegoat. Meanwhile, Huong’s lawyer has repeatedly spoken the same for his client. 

According to The Guardian, Indonesia’s government said Siti’s release was the result of its continual high-level lobbying.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who is facing an election next month, met Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir last July to address Siti’s case.
 
After the release of Siti on Monday, Huong was distraught, telling reporters that she was in shock and her mind was blank, The Guardian reported. 
Linh Pham
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