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Vietnam family of Kim murder suspect urge her not to lose hope

Friday, March 15, 2019, 09:42 GMT+7
Vietnam family of Kim murder suspect urge her not to lose hope
Vietnamese national, Doan Thi Huong (C) leaves Shah Alam High Court escorted by Malaysian police, outside Kuala Lumpur on March 14, 2019. Photo: AFP

The father of a Vietnamese woman accused of killing the half-brother of North Korea's leader had washed bedding in anticipation of her homecoming after her Indonesian co-accused was suddenly freed earlier this week.

But his daughter is still in custody after a Malaysian prosecutor said Thursday Doan Thi Huong would remain on trial for the murder of Kim Jong Nam with a toxic nerve agent at a busy Kuala Lumpur airport in 2017.

"I am very sad. The government gave us the best support but the other side could not solve it, what can we do?" said Huong's father Doan Van Thanh from his village in northern Vietnam.

Vietnam's government made an 11th-hour plea to Malaysian authorities this week to free Huong after fellow suspect Siti Aisyah was sent home following back-door lobbying from Jakarta.

Thanh was sure it would work. He insists his daughter was tricked into Kim's murder and believes she thought she was part of a prank for TV, as she has said in court.

She could face death by hanging if found guilty of the assassination.

"I still believe Huong is innocent," the parking lot attendant said at his home surrounded by rice paddies in Nam Dinh province.

He has had little news from his daughter since she was arrested in February 2017, just three brief calls from custody on a borrowed phone asking after the family's health.

He implored his 30-year-old daughter not to lose hope, optimistic she could still be freed.

"Please be patient, the Vietnamese government will support your release," he said in a message to his daughter.

Huong's lawyer said he would try again to get the charges dropped after Thursday's ruling, which left Huong in tears in court.

Doan Van Thanh, the father of Vietnamese woman Doan Thi Huong accused of killing Kim Jong Nam, insists his daughter is innocent and hopes she will be home soon. Photo: AFP

Doan Van Thanh, the father of Vietnamese woman Doan Thi Huong accused of killing Kim Jong Nam, insists his daughter is innocent and hopes she will be home soon. Photo: AFP

'So unfair'

A former hair salon worker, Huong was propelled into the global spotlight after the Cold War-style murder shocked the world.

The slight, round-faced girl left home after high school to study pharmacology and accounting in Hanoi.

But her life took a turn when she moved to Malaysia, where like so many migrant workers she sought a brighter future than the one on offer in her poor rice farming village.

Her flashy fashion, foreign boyfriends and edgy hairstyles raised eyebrows back home, a conservative hamlet where most people work in the fields.

Soon after she was charged with murder, unverified clips of her auditions for "Vietnamese Idol" started circulating online. Other unsubstantiated images showed the same young woman kissing a famous social media prankster on a popular YouTube channel.

Her family says she is a good girl who fell into the murder plot unwittingly.

Buoyed by the news that Aisyah was freed -- and after Vietnam's foreign minister publicly called for Huong's release this week -- they were certain she would be home soon.

Vietnam said it was disappointed in the outcome of Thursday's hearing.

"We regret the fact that the Malaysian court did not set free Doan Thi Huong immediately," foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said, urging a fair trial.

Huong's stepmother Nguyen Thi Vy was so hopeful her stepdaughter would be back Thursday she bought extra cassava at the market for a celebration meal with the media that had gathered at her home since early Thursday.

She was crushed when she did not get the good news she was hoping for.

"Why was the other girl was released, and not our girl? They were together. Why is this the outcome?" Vy said, sobbing.

"It is so unfair... we are calling for help from the most senior people at the trial to consider releasing my daughter, free her as soon as possible," she said.



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