Vietnam stepmum of accused Kim Jong-nam assassin ‘happy’ over new sentence

Nguyen Thi Vy, stepmother of Doan Thi Huong, the Vietnamese suspect in Kim Jong-nam’s murder, receives a phone call in her house in Nam Dinh province, Vietnam April 1, 2019. — Reuters pic
Nguyen Thi Vy, stepmother of Doan Thi Huong, the Vietnamese suspect in Kim Jong-nam’s murder, receives a phone call in her house in Nam Dinh province, Vietnam April 1, 2019. — Reuters pic

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NAM DINH, April 1 — The stepmother of a Vietnamese woman accused of killing the half-brother of North Korea’s leader said today she was delighted her stepdaughter escaped the death sentence, urging her to “hang on” until her expected release in May.

Doan Thi Huong dodged the death penalty today after a Malaysian judge reduced her murder charge to causing injury by dangerous means over the killing of Kim Jong-nam with a nerve agent in 2017. 

Her lawyers had requested the charges against her be dropped altogether after her Indonesian co-accused Siti Aisyah was suddenly released last month, raising her family’s hopes Huong might also come home.

“We wanted her to be freed immediately,” her stepmother Nguyen Thi Vy said in her rice farming village in northern Vietnam today.

“The family is happy enough with her escaping the death penalty,” she added after lighting incense to thank ancestors for sparing her stepdaughter from death.

Huong’s new sentence is three years and four months in jail, which includes time served since her arrest in February 2017.

Her lawyer said after sentence reductions she would most likely be released in early May.

Vy urged Huong to stay strong until then.

“To anyone meeting her, please tell her to try to hang on, just one more month,” Vy said.

Anticipating her imminent arrival home her family prepared a celebration for friends and neighbours that will now be delayed until next month.

“It’s OK, we’ll host a party when she comes back... there’s a pig ready to welcome her,” Huong’s brother Doan Van Binh said.

‘I want to be a singer’

Huong smiled broadly following her court appearance attended by her father who also beamed after the hearing.

Her stepmother Vy broke out in a wide grin seeing fresh photos of her smiling stepdaughter, whose mental state had deteriorated in detention, according to her lawyers.

Huong underwent a psychiatric assessment last month after her initial bid to be released was rejected, prompting her to sob in court.

Her co-accused Aisyah was suddenly released in March after back-door lobbying by Indonesia, and Malaysia’s attorney general said she was freed in part because of “good relations” between the counties.

Both women insisted they were tricked into participating in the brazen attack in a busy Kuala Lumpur airport which they thought was for a TV prank show. 

A former hair salon worker, 30-year-old Huong left home after high school to study pharmacology and accounting in Hanoi.

With her funky hairstyles and edgy fashion, she raised eyebrows back in her conservative hometown in northern Nam Dinh province.

Soon after the murder unverified clips of her on Vietnam Idol surfaced, while others showed her kissing a famous social media prankster on a popular YouTube channel.

Her apparent taste for fame has not been dimmed by the case, which has captured global headlines.

“I want to be a singer or an actress,” she said today when asked what she planned to do once freed.

Her family said they cannot wait for her to come home and hopes she might settle down. 

“I just want her to get married to someone who loves her, life will be easier with a husband and kids around for her,” Vy said. — AFP

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