Who killed Kim Jong Nam?
Second suspect freed as experts claim North Korean masterminds have ‘got away with assassination’
The Vietnamese woman accused of killing the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been released from a Malaysian prison.
Malaysian prosecutors had dropped a murder charge against Doan Thi Huong last month, after she pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of “causing hurt”.
Following her release from jail on Friday morning, the 30-year-old was taken into immigration custody, before boarding a flight to Hanoi.
Her father, Doan Van Thanh, said he would be in the Vietnamese capital to welcome her home.
“I am so happy now, my whole village is happy now,” he told Reuters.
“We will hold a party on Sunday and anyone can come and join the party. We will slaughter some pigs for the party. My daughter particularly likes fried fish, so we will prepare that too.”
Her release brings “one of the world's highest-profile murder mysteries to an anticlimactic end after two years of twists and turns”, says CNN.
Huong and a second woman, Indonesian Siti Aisyah, were accused of smearing toxic nerve agent VX on Kim Jong Nam’s face as he waited for a flight at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on 13 February 2017. He died about 20 minutes later.
Kim, 45, had once been in line to inherit the leadership of North Korea from his father, Kim Jong Il, but fell out of favour in the early 2000s. A critic of the regime, he lived in Macau and travelled under a pseudonym.
In August last year, a judge ruled that there was enough evidence to charge Huong and Aisyah over the assassination.
Both women “have always insisted they were innocent”, and say they were tricked into carrying out the killing after being told it was part of a reality TV prank, the BBC reports.
Last month, all charges against Aisyah, 27, were dropped, although she was not formally acquitted.
Malaysian prosecutors did not give a reason for the decision, but the move came after Yasonna Laoly, Indonesia’s minister of law and human rights, urged Malaysia to “reconsider the charges” and take “into account the good relations between our countries”.
An appeal for similar leniency by Huong was rejected and she was expected to face the death penalty.
However, after pleading guilty to a lesser charge of causing hurt by potentially deadly means, a Malaysian court last month sentenced her to three years and four months in jail, reports Sky News.
The sentence included time already served, which meant that under Malaysian prison remission rules, Huong was already eligible for release.
As she now heads home, CNN says that “it is likely no one will ever be convicted of murder for using one of the world's deadliest chemical weapons to stage a brazen assassination in broad daylight”.
“The planners, organisers, and overseers of the assassination of Kim Jong Nam have indeed gotten away with it,” Evans Revere, former acting US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told the US broadcaster.
“No one will be held responsible for this horrific attack in which a weapon of mass destruction was used to kill a human being in an international airport.”
Four North Korean suspects who fled Malaysia on the day of the murder have not been found. The motive behind his assassination is uncertain, but analysts believe Kim Jong Un may have seen his estranged half-brother as a potential threat.
“North Korea has consistently denied involvement in the killing, though United States, South Korean and Malaysian authorities have said it was, in fact, responsible for Kim’s death,” CNN adds.