A Vietnamese woman accused of murdering the North Korean leader’s half-brother has avoided the death penalty after pleading guilty to a lesser charge.

Doan Thi Huong, 30, was charged with killing Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of Kim Jong-un, by smearing his face with VX poison, a lethal chemical weapon, at Kuala Lumpur’s main airport in February 2017.

But prosecutors in Shah Alam in Malaysia on Monday offered Huong an alternative charge of causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means after receiving representations from the Vietnamese embassy and the woman’s lawyers.

She pleaded guilty to the lesser charge and was sentenced to three years and four months in jail, beginning from the day she was arrested on 15 February 2017.

However, Huong is expected to be freed by the first week of May, after a one-third reduction in her sentence for good behaviour.

She would have faced the death penalty if convicted of murder.

While handing out a jail term far short of the maximum 10 years the new charge carried, the judge told Huong she was “very, very lucky” and wished her “all the best”.

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

Huong is the only suspect in custody after the Malaysian attorney general’s decision to drop the murder case against Indonesian Siti Aisyah on 11 March following high-level lobbying from Jakarta.