Sunday 20 October 2019

Woman accused of killing North Korean leader's half brother with nerve agent is freed

Indonesian Siti Aisyah, center, smiles as she leaves Shah Alam High Court in Shah Alam, Malaysia
Indonesian Siti Aisyah, center, smiles as she leaves Shah Alam High Court in Shah Alam, Malaysia
Indonesian Siti Aisyah, left, smiles with her lawyer Gooi Soon Seng after a press conference at Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Eileen Ng

An Indonesian woman held for two years on suspicion of killing the North Korean leader's half brother has been freed.

Siti Aisyah was accused of smearing VX nerve agent on the face of Kim Jong Nam at an airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur in February 2017.

Ms Aisyah - accused alongside Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong - was discharged after prosecutors asked to withdraw the charge against her.

She was quickly ushered out of the courtroom telling reporters: "I am surprised and very happy".

Prosecutor Iskandar Ahmad said the discharge not amounting to acquittal means Ms Aisyah can be recharged but there are no such plans for now.

The two young women were accused of smearing the nerve agent on Mr Kim's face in an airport terminal, but previously said they thought they were taking part in a prank for a TV show.

CCTV footage of Kim Jong Nam with airport security and officials after he was attacked at Kuala Lumpur Airport Photo: Fuji Television via AP
CCTV footage of Kim Jong Nam with airport security and officials after he was attacked at Kuala Lumpur Airport Photo: Fuji Television via AP

They were the only suspects in custody after four North Korean suspects fled the country the same morning Mr Kim was killed.

Indonesia's government said its continual high-level lobbying resulted in Ms Aisyah's release.

The foreign ministry said in a statement that she was "deceived and did not realise at all that she was being manipulated by North Korean intelligence".

It said Ms Aisyah, a migrant worker, believed that she was part of a reality TV show and never had any intention of killing Kim.

The ministry said Malaysia's attorney general used his authority under Malaysia's criminal procedure code to not continue the prosecution following a request from Indonesia's law and human rights minister.

It said that over the past two years, Ms Aisyah's plight was raised in "every bilateral Indonesia-Malaysia meeting," including at the president's level, the vice president's level and in regular meetings of the foreign minister and other ministers with their Malaysian counterparts.

Lawyers for the women have previously said 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.

Kim Jong Nam was the exiled half-brother of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (AP/Shizuo Kambayashi)
Kim Jong Nam was the exiled half-brother of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (AP/Shizuo Kambayashi)

Malaysian officials have never officially accused North Korea and have made it clear they don't want the trial politicised.

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 North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's rule.

Kim Jong Nam had been living abroad but could have been seen as a threat to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, pictured with President Donald Trump at a recent meeting in Vietnam
Kim Jong Nam had been living abroad but could have been seen as a threat to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, pictured with President Donald Trump at a recent meeting in Vietnam

PA Media

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