World & Nation

Last defendant charged in airport killing of Kim Jong Un’s brother is released

Kim Jong-nam murder case: Vietnamese suspect freed from Malaysian jail, Shah Alam, Malaysia - 01 Apr 2019
Doan Thi Huong leaves court in Shah Alam, Malaysia, last month. Huong was released Friday and headed back to Vietnam, her home.
(Farzy Ismail / EPA/Shutterstock)

A Vietnamese woman who was tried in the killing of the estranged half brother of North Korea’s leader was released from a Malaysian prison and flew back to Hanoi on Friday.

Doan Thi Huong expressed her gratitude “to everybody who prayed for me” in a video taken by her lawyer in the plane just before it took off.

“I want to say I love you all. I thank you my Lord Jesus. Thank you so much,” she said.

Huong’s release probably concludes court action in the case, since four North Koreans named as co-conspirators in the 2017 slaying are still at large and not likely to be arrested. Malaysian officials never officially accused North Korea’s government and made it clear they didn’t want the case politicized.


Huong was the last suspect in custody after the Malaysian attorney general’s stunning decision in March to drop a murder case against her co-defendant, Indonesian Siti Aisyah, following high-level lobbying from Jakarta. Huong sought to be acquitted after Aisyah was freed, but prosecutors rejected her request. Aisyah returned home to Indonesia.

The two women were charged with colluding with the four North Koreans to murder Kim Jong Nam, leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother, with VX nerve agent. The women smeared the substance on his face in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13, 2017, and he died within hours. The women have said they thought they were taking part in a harmless prank for a TV show.

Huong’s lawyer, Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, said earlier that Huong was taken by immigration officials to their offices to sort out her travel documents. She was escorted directly to a plane later Friday.

Huong, 30, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of causing injury last month after prosecutors dropped a murder charge against her. She was sentenced to 40 months in prison from the day of her arrest and was released early for good behavior.


Hisyam told reporters at the airport that “the case has come to a complete end” because prosecutors didn’t file any appeal of the sentence given Huong.

Hisyam said he and two other defense lawyers would be on the same flight as Huong because they will give a final briefing on the case to the Vietnam Bar Federation, which had hired them. He read out a letter of gratitude written by Huong.

She thanked the Malaysian and Vietnamese governments.

“Thank you Lord Jesus for he loves me so much. I am very happy and thank you all a lot. I love you all,” she scribbled in the letter shown to reporters.

FROM THE ARCHIVE: After brazen poisoning of North Korean leader’s half brother, trial unfolds in Malaysian courtroom »

After her sentencing last month, Huong said she wants to “sing and act” when she returns to Vietnam.

A high court judge last August found there was enough evidence to infer that Aisyah, Huong and the four North Koreans engaged in a “well-planned conspiracy” to kill Kim and had called on the two women to present their defense.

The four North Koreans left Malaysia the day Kim was killed.


Lawyers for the women have 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. Intent to kill is crucial to a murder charge under Malaysian law.

Kim Jong Nam was the eldest son in the current generation of North Korea’s ruling family. He had been living abroad for years but could have been seen as a threat to Kim Jong Un’s rule.

Must-read stories from the L.A. Times

Get all the day's most vital news with our Today's Headlines newsletter, sent every weekday morning.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.