Indonesian woman freed two years after Kim Jong Nam's VX death

Minnie Murray
March 12, 2019

The two young women were accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Kim's face in an airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on February 13, 2017.

PHOTO: Indonesian Siti Aisyah (center) leaves the Shah Alam High Court in Malaysia, March 11, 2019. The reason for the withdrawal of the murder charge was not given.

The two suspects, Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong, were accused of smearing the deadly VX nerve agent on the 45-year-old's face, which later killed him.

Indonesian officials mounted a major diplomatic effort to free Aisyah, which included pressure from the president.

In a statement, Malaysia's Attorney General Tommy Thomas said Aisyah's release came after intervention from the Indonesian government, which has repeatedly lobbied for charges against her to be dropped and for her to be allowed home.

Both have denied murder, saying they thought they were part of a TV prank.

The lawyer for Indonesian suspect Siti Aisyah has claimed she was just a pawn in what was really a political assassination.

"Thank God. I want to say a thousand "thank you's" if it's really true that she has been freed", Aisyah's aunt Darmi, who goes by one name, told AFP.

Prosecutor Iskandar Ahmad said Aisyah's discharge without an acquittal means she can be charged again if there is fresh evidence, but there are no such plans now.

Kim had originally been the favoured child to take over from his father, Kim Jong-il, but became estranged from the family after an incident in 2001, when he was arrested trying to get into Japan on a fake Dominican passport with the Mandarin alias "fat bear".

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.

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

It was a surprise move as the Shah Alam High Court, outside Kuala Lumpur, had been due only to hear Vietnamese accused Doan Thi Huong testify on Monday.

Huong's lawyer Hisham Teh Poh Teik told The Associated Press they will seek postponement of her trial.

Aisyah was quickly ushered out of the court building in an embassy vehicle.

One of the two women accused of killing Kim Jong Un's half-brother in a daring airport ambush was freed from custody Monday after prosecutors unexpectedly dropped the murder charges against her.

Her trial continues on Thursday.

During the trial, the court was shown CCTV footage of two women allegedly assaulting Kim Jong Nam while he prepared to check in for a flight. "We believe she is not guilty", he said.

During the hearings in June 2018, Aisyah's lawyer Gooi Soon Seng, in his final submission, told the court that "the investigation was not only shoddy but was lopsided".

The Vietnamese government has not been as demanding about the release of Huong, who is still in detention.

"She is entitled to the same kind of consideration as Aisyah", he said.

Huong's case did not appear to be publicly discussed during Kim Jong Un's recent visit to Hanoi, when he met US President Donald Trump and Vietnam's leaders.

A murder conviction carries a mandatory penalty of death by hanging in Malaysia.

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