A Vietnamese woman who wore a t-shirt with ‘LOL’ emblazoned on the front as she smeared deadly nerve agent on the face of Kim Jong-un’s brother at Kuala Lumpur airport three years ago has escaped the death penalty.
Doan Thi Huong is due to walk free from jail in May after Malaysia agreed to drop the murder charge against her over the death of Kim Jong-nam and allowed her to plead guilty to the lesser charge of causing injury with a dangerous weapon.
The judge told Huong she was ‘very, very lucky’ as he handed down a sentence of three years and four months in jail, starting from the date she was arrested in 2017.
It comes after Malaysia agreed to drop all charges against Huong’s co-accused, Indonesian woman Siti Aisyah, who walked free from court earlier this month.
The women had told police they were duped into killing Kim by North Korean agents who convinced them they were taking part in a prank TV show.
Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong (center) is escorted by police as she arrives at Shah Alam High Court in Shah Alam, Malaysia on Monday
Huong, center, is escorted by police as she leaves Shah Alam High Court
She has been in jail since February 2017 when she was caught on CCTV smearing VX nerve agent on Kim Jong-nam’s face while wearing a t-shirt that said ‘LOL’ on the front
She is the only suspect who is in custody for the February 2017 killing of Kim Jong Nam (left), the eldest son of the late North Korean ruler Kim Jong Il. His brother is the current leader, Kim Jong-un (right)
Huong had been facing a murder charge, which carried the death penalty if she was convicted.
Huong nodded as a translator read the new charge to her: voluntarily causing injury with a dangerous weapon, VX nerve agent.
High Court judge Azmi Ariffin sentenced Huong to three years and four months from the day she was arrested on February 15 2017.
Huong’s lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik said his client is expected to be freed by the first week of May, after a one-third reduction in her sentence for good behaviour.
‘I am happy,’ Huong told reporters as she left the courtroom, adding she thought it was a fair outcome.
While handing out a jail term short of the maximum 10 years the new charge carried, the judge told Huong she was ‘very, very lucky’ and he wished her ‘all the best’.
Vietnamese officials in the courtroom cheered when the decision was announced.
Huong is led away from court after pleading guilty to voluntarily causing injury with a dangerous weapon, VX nerve agent
Huong smiles from a car as she is escorted by Malaysian police out of the High Court on Monday
Kim Jong Nam is seen above in an airport terminal in Kuala Lampur shortly after a hit squad exposed him to VX nerve agent in February 2017. He died shortly afterward
Huong is seen in this undated handout released by the Royal Malaysia Police to Reuters on February 19, 2017
Huong is the only suspect in custody after the Malaysian attorney general’s decision to drop the murder case against Indonesian Siti Aisyah on March 11 following high-level lobbying from Jakarta.
Huong sought to be acquitted after Ms Aisyah was freed, but prosecutors rejected her request.
Huong is the only suspect in custody after the attorney general’s’ stunning decision to drop the case against Indonesian Siti Aisyah (above) on March 11 following high-level lobbying from Jakarta
The original charge had alleged the two women colluded with four North Koreans to murder Mr Kim with VX nerve agent they smeared on his face as he was passing through the airport on February 13 2017.
The women had said they thought they were taking part in a harmless prank for a TV show.
The four North Koreans fled Malaysia on the same day Mr Kim was killed.
The High Court judge last August had found there was enough evidence to infer that Aisyah, Huong and the four North Koreans engaged in a ‘well-planned conspiracy’ to kill Mr Kim and had called on the two women to present their defence.
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.
Huong’s lawyer told the court Monday that her guilty plea to the lesser charge showed she ‘has taken responsibility’ for her actions.
In asking for a lenient sentence, he also told the court that her move saved judicial time.