Malaysian court drops murder rap

Siti Aisyah
Siti Aisyah
Image: Supplied

An Indonesian woman accused of the 2017 killing of the North Korean leader’s half-brother was freed on Monday, as a Malaysian court dropped the murder charge against her in a case that drew suspicions of being a political assassination.

As the court gave its decision, Siti Aisyah, 26, turned to her Vietnamese co-accused, Doan Thi Huong, 30, in the dock and the two women, who had been facing the death penalty together, embraced tearfully.

They stood accused of poisoning Kim Jong-nam, the halfbrother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, with liquid VX, a banned chemical weapon, at the Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017.

Following the dramatic decision to release Aisyah, a defence lawyer asked for an adjournment in the case against Huong, to submit a request that charges be dropped against her too.

The defence has maintained the women were pawns in an assassination orchestrated by North Korean agents.

Interpol had issued a red notice for four North Koreans who were identified as suspects by Malaysian police and had left the country hours after the murder.

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 at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport.

Aisyah, who had worked as a masseuse at a hotel in the Malaysian capital, and Huong, who described herself as an actress, had maintained that they believed they had been hired to participate in a reality TV prank show.

Once the court released her, Aisyah, wearing a black traditional Malay dress and headscarf, was rushed to the Indonesian embassy, where she spoke briefly with journalists.

“I feel so happy. I did not expect that today I would be released,” Aisyah said, adding that she was healthy and had been treated well in prison.

Prosecutors told the court on Monday that they had been instructed to withdraw the charge against Aisyah.

No reason was given for the application.

The court rejected Aisyah’s lawyer’s request for a full acquittal, saying the trial had already established a prima facie case and she could be recalled if fresh evidence emerged.

The defence had disputed whether the CCTV footage was clear enough to identify the Indonesian woman as an assailant, or establish what she had done to the victim.

Aisyah’s lawyer, Gooi Soonseng, expressed happiness with the outcome, but said his client was a scapegoat.

“I still believe that North Korea had something to do with it,” Gooi said.

Kim Jong-nam had lived in exile in Macau for several years before the killing, having fled his homeland after his halfbrother became North Korea’s leader in 2011 following their father’s death. – Reuters