Vietnamese woman pleads guilty to lesser charge in Kim Jong-nam killing

Doan Thi Huong is escorted by police as she leaves Shah Alam High Court Credit: Vincent Thian/AP

A Vietnamese woman who is the only suspect in custody for the killing of the North Korean leader’s brother has pleaded guilty to a lesser charge in a Malaysian court.

Doan Thi Huong has been sentenced to three years and four months in jail, starting from her arrest in February 2017.

She would have faced the death penalty if found guilty of the murder.

Ms Huong nodded as a translator read the new charge to her which was voluntarily causing injury with a dangerous weapon, VX nerve agent.

Doan Thi Huong leaves Shah Alam High Court. Credit: Vincent Thian/AP

The original charge had alleged two women colluded with four North Koreans to murder Mr Kim Jong-nam with VX nerve agent they smeared on his face as he was passing through the airport on February 13 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 sentence, the high court judge, Azmi Ariffin, told Huong she was "very, very lucky" and wished her "all the best".

Vietnamese officials in the courtroom cheered when the decision was announced.

Ms 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](http://Woman accused of murdering North Korean leader’s half brother freed).

Huong sought to be acquitted after Ms Aisyah was freed, but prosecutors rejected her request.

Lawyers for Doan Thi Huong after the court hearing at Shah Alam High Court. Credit: AP

The women had previously 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.

Ms Huong’s lawyer told the court on 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 her move saved judicial time.