Shah Alam, Malaysia – The Vietnamese woman accused in the killing of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un‘s half-brother has been sentenced to three years and four months in prison.
The sentencing on Monday in Malaysia came after 30-year-old Doan Thi Huong pleaded guilty to a reduced charge.
Judge Azmi Ariffin told the court the sentence was aimed at “striking a balance between the interests of the public and the interests of the accused”.
However, with the one-third remission that is given to all prisoners, Huong’s lawyers said she would probably walk free from Kajang Women’s Prison, south of Kuala Lumpur, around May 4.
After a little more than 20 minutes’ deliberation, he announced the sentencing, telling Huong she was a “very, very, lucky person” to have had a murder charge that carried the death penalty replaced with a lesser charge.
“Soon you will be going back to your home country,” Judge Azmi said.
As the sentence was announced, there were cheers from the public gallery and Huong, wearing a fluffy cream sweater and pink headscarf, appeared to sob.
“I’m very happy,” the handcuffed Huong told journalists from the dock after the judge left. “It is a fair sentence for me.”
Earlier, the prosecution told the Shah Alam court that the lawyer decided on an alternative charge of “voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means”, two weeks after rejecting Huong’s lawyers’ calls for the murder charge to be withdrawn.
That request followed the sudden withdrawal of the charge against Huong’s co-accused Siti Aisyah who is now back home in Indonesia.
The pair was accused of poisoning Kim Jong Nam with liquid VX at Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017.
The new charge carried a maximum sentence of 10 years.
The people behind the plot to kill Kim Jong Nam “exploited and manipulated her to carry out their evil designs”, lead defence lawyer Hisyam Teoh Poh Teik told the judge before the sentencing. He also stressed that Huong, the youngest of five children, had pleaded guilty, had no criminal record and was not a criminal.
“The accused has endured enough,” he said. “Everyone is entitled to a second chance.”
The murder triggered a nationwide manhunt and a diplomatic crisis.
Four men from North Korea who were suspected of being behind the attack fled Malaysia the day Kim Jong Nam was killed, leaving Huong and Siti the only two people in custody in relation to the crime.
Hisyam said justice would only truly be served once those men were brought to trial and said he believed it was possible for them to be tried in abstentia.
The Vietnamese ambassador to Malaysia, Le Quy Quynh, who was accompanied by at least 12 other Vietnamese including officials and members of the Vietnamese Bar Federation, welcomed Duong’s pending release.
“I have to say that Doan Thi Huong is a victim,” he told reporters as he was leaving the court.
Huong’s 66-year-old father, Doan Van Thanh, also made the journey to Malaysia and spent 10 minutes with his daughter before the proceedings began on Monday.
Thanh, a war veteran who lost his foot during the Vietnam War, told reporters he was “very happy” with the outcome.