SHAH ALAM, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian prosecutors on Monday offered to reduce a murder charge against the Vietnamese woman who is the only suspect in custody for the killing of the estranged half brother of North Korea's leader.
Prosecutor Iskandar Ahmad told the court he received instruction from the attorney general to offer a lower "alternative charge" to Doan Thi Huong.
Huong's lawyer Salim Bashir told reporters the reduced charge was for causing hurt by a dangerous weapon, which carries a maximum of 10 years in jail if convicted.
He said she is likely to plead guilty to that charge. The hearing was halted briefly for Huong to decide whether to accept the offer.
Huong is the only suspect in custody after the attorney general's' stunning decision to drop the case against Indonesian Siti Aisyah on March 11 following high-level lobbying from Jakarta. Huong sought to be acquitted after Aisyah was freed, but prosecutors rejected her request.
The murder charge against each woman had alleged they colluded with four missing North Korean suspects to murder Kim Jong Nam. The women have said they thought they were taking part in a harmless prank for a TV show when they swiped their hands over his face with an oily substance identified as VX nerve agent. The four North Koreans fled the country the morning of Feb. 13, 2017, after the two women had accosted Kim in a Kuala Lumpur airport terminal.
The High Court judge last August had found there was enough evidence to infer that Aisyah, Huong and the four missing North Koreans engaged in a "well-planned conspiracy" to kill Kim and had called on the two women to present their defense.
Huong's lawyers have accused Attorney-General Tommy Thomas of being unfair and discriminating against Huong. The Bar Council and some lawmakers have urged Thomas to be transparent and explain his decision, although he isn't obliged to do so. Vietnam's government has also voiced displeasure and urged Malaysia to be fair and release Huong.
Lawyers for the women have previously 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 would face a death sentence if she is convicted of murder.
Malaysian officials have never officially accused North Korea and have made it clear they don't want the trial politicized.
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.