Malaysia frees Vietnamese woman accused in killing of N.Korean leader’s half-brother

In this file photo taken on April 1, 2019, Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong (R), accused in the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, is escorted by police out of the High Court in Shah Alam. (AFP / Mohd Rasfan)
Updated 03 May 2019

Malaysia frees Vietnamese woman accused in killing of N.Korean leader’s half-brother

  • Huong and an Indonesian woman were earlier charged with murder of Kim Jong Nam in 2017
  • The North Korean regime was suspected of ordering the assassination of Kim, who had been critical of his family’s dynastic rule

KAJANG, Malaysia: The Vietnamese woman who was tried for the killing of the estranged half brother of North Korea’s leader was released Friday from a Malaysian prison and due to fly back to Hanoi later in the day, her lawyer and an embassy translator said.
Doan Thi Huong’s release likely closes the case, since four North Koreans named as co-conspirators in the 2017 slaying are not in custody. Malaysian officials never officially accused North Korea and made it clear they didn’t want the trial politicized.
Vietnamese embassy translator Maridam Yacfar told reporters at the prison that Doan Thi Huong looked “happy” but couldn’t give further details.
Huong’s lawyer, Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, said Huong went to an immigration office and will fly back to Hanoi later Friday.
Huong, 30, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of causing injury last month after prosecutors dropped the murder charge against her. She was sentenced to 40 months in prison from the day of her arrest and was released early for good behavior.
Huong was the last suspect in custody after the Malaysian attorney general’s stunning decision in March to drop the murder case against her co-defendant, Indonesian Siti Aisyah, following high-level lobbying from Jakarta. Huong sought to be acquitted after Aisyah was freed, but prosecutors rejected her request. Aisyah returned home to Indonesia.
The two women were charged with colluding with the four North Koreans to murder Kim Jong Nam with VX nerve agent. The women smeared the substance on his face in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13, 2017, and have said they thought they were taking part in a harmless prank for a TV show.
The four North Koreans fled Malaysia the day 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 Kim and had called on the two women to present their defense.
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.
Hisyam said Huong was very joyful when he met her at the prison on Thursday.
“She was smiling from ear to ear. She is looking forward to return home to meet her family and friends,” he told The Associated Press.
After her sentencing last month, Huong told reporters at the court room that she wants to “sing and act” when she returns to Vietnam.
Kim Jong Nam was the eldest son in the current generation of North Korea’s ruling family. He had been living abroad for years but could have been seen as a threat to Kim Jong Un’s rule.

 

 

 

 

 

 A Vietnamese woman who spent more than two years in a Malaysian prison on suspicion of killing the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was freed on Friday, her lawyer said.
Doan Thi Huong, 30, was charged along with an Indonesian woman with poisoning Kim Jong Nam by smearing his face with liquid VX, a banned chemical weapon, at Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017.
Malaysian prosecutors dropped a murder charge against Huong last month after she pleaded guilty to an alternate charge of causing harm. Huong will return to Vietnam later on Friday, her lawyer, Hisyam Teh, told Reuters.
Huong was taken into immigration custody immediately after her release from prison and will remain there before boarding a flight to Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital.
Teh said his client may speak at a brief news conference before boarding her flight.
“In the event she is unable to talk to media I will read out a statement from her,” he said.
Huong’s co-accused, Siti Aisyah, was freed in March after prosecutors also dropped a murder charge against her.
South Korean and US officials have said the North Korean regime had ordered the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, who had been critical of his family’s dynastic rule. Pyongyang has denied the allegation.
Defense lawyers have maintained the women were pawns in an assassination orchestrated by North Korean agents. The women said they thought they were part of a reality prank show and did not know they were poisoning Kim.
Four North Korean men were also charged but they left Malaysia hours after the murder and remain at large.
Malaysia came under criticism for charging the two women with murder — which carries a mandatory death penalty in the Southeast Asian country — when the key perpetrators were still being sought. (Reporting by Rozanna Latiff Writing by Joe Brock and Joseph Sipalan Editing by Paul Tait)


UK university SOAS to cut costs over COVID-19 and financial problems

Updated 31 May 2020

UK university SOAS to cut costs over COVID-19 and financial problems

  • Latest figures show that the internationally renowned higher education institution has multi-million pound deficits and risks running out of cash next year
  • SOAS said that it had taken short term action to reduce costs

LONDON: A UK university specializing in the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East has been forced to slash costs and implement drastic staff cuts after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic exacerbated its financial problems.
Staff at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), part of the University of London, said they feared that management was cutting costs to make the college an attractive takeover target for an overseas institution or one of its London rivals, UK newspaper the Guardian reported.
Latest figures show that the internationally renowned higher education institution has multi-million pound deficits and risks running out of cash next year.
The effects of the pandemic on student recruitment meant “a material uncertainty exists that may cast significant doubt on the school’s ability to continue as a going concern” over the next 12 months, SOAS’s auditors warned.
One academic at SOAS told the Guardian that the college’s senior managers had “been unable to make significant changes over the last few years, and now it has ended in a big crisis. This is a serious failure of management.”
Its senior academics were ordered to identify staff cuts that were to be submitted on Friday, and departments were asked to balance their budgets while expecting a 50 percent drop in new international students, the report said.
SOAS’s International Foundation Courses and English Language Studies Center, which provides courses to international students, has reportedly been told to make so many cuts that it will effectively disappear, along with its 55 staff.
The college’s highly regarded international development department, which is ranked eighth in the world, will also suffer from major cuts. Its famed anthropology and sociology department is likely to lose between a third and half of its academic staff.
“I think people are in shock,” a staff member said. “This all happened while we are still coping with COVID-19.”
SOAS released a statement on Friday saying the coronavirus pandemic had affected all British universities and that it was “taking decisive action now so that we can continue to ensure we provide an excellent student experience to our new and returning students.”
It acknowledged that although its “accounts show that SOAS has already taken steps to reduce its deficit position,” the “impact of COVID-19 has put finances across the HE sector under even greater pressure than before.”
It added that it had taken short term action to reduce costs including “pausing capital spend, line by line scrutiny of non-pay budgets” and reducing the use of building space in the Bloomsbury area in London, outside its core campus.
SOAS also said that additional proposals for change were being considered and would be implemented ahead of the start of the new academic year in September. 
SOAS, University of London, has been ranked in the UK’s top 20 universities for Arts and Humanities, according to the 2020 Times Higher Education World University Ranking.
The rankings place SOAS 13th in the UK and 57th in the world.