I need some peace, says freed Kim Jong Nam murder suspect

Ms Siti Aisyah
Ms Siti Aisyah

JAKARTA • Ms Siti Aisyah, the Indonesian woman whose murder charges were dropped in Malaysia on Monday, says she has not had a good night's sleep since her release and she feels the events that have unfurled since then have been surreal.

"I've had maybe half an hour of sleep. I've found it hard to sleep, it's just... it doesn't feel real. I am still in shock," she told reporters at the Foreign Ministry after meeting President Joko Widodo on Tuesday.

Ms Siti Aisyah, 27, went to the Presidential Palace with her parents, Mr Asria and Madam Benah, as well as her sister, and engaged in a brief talk with the President.

She said she was happy to meet Mr Joko, who "gave (her) some advice".

Mr Joko said after the meeting: "I told Siti to stay at home first until she feels calmer and then she can plan her life again."

Meeting the President was the fourth public event she has appeared at since prosecutors at Shah Alam High Court in Malaysia dropped charges against her in the 2017 murder of Mr Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

After her surprise release on Monday, Ms Siti Aisyah was flown to Jakarta immediately by private jet to be reunited with her parents and other family members.

OVERWHELMED

I can't describe the feeling, maybe I just need a rest, far from this... the media and live with my family. I just want peace.

MS SITI AISYAH, who made four public appearances on Monday and Tuesday after murder charges against her were dropped.

Throughout Monday, she had three separate public appearances and photo opportunities with Indonesian officials, including Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly, where she was greeted by camera lights and showered with endless questions from the media, all of which, she said, caused her headaches.

She said she had never been under such intense public spotlight, not even during her 11/2-year trial when the media took photos of her from a distance.

"I can't describe the feeling, maybe I just need a rest, far from this... the media and live with my family. I just want peace," she said.

Ms Siti Aisyah and 30-year-old Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam were accused of smearing a banned toxic nerve agent on Mr Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in February 2017, in a trial that evoked a Cold War-style assassination and raised eyebrows around the world.

Ms Siti Aisyah and Doan were charged with conspiracy and murder, which, according to the Malaysian penal code, is punishable by death.

 
 
 

Ms Siti Aisyah said she was held in solitary confinement during the court proceedings and she spent two birthdays alone in prison.

And it was only with the support of her family, as well as that of officials at the Indonesian Embassy and the Foreign Ministry's citizen protection directorate who visited her every few weeks, that Ms Siti Aisyah kept her faith.

"I believed I could be free, but not this soon. I miss my hometown and its surroundings, my parents and my son," she said, adding that she had not seen her nine-year-old son in the past two years.

She tried to contact him on Monday evening after her release, but he was not available because his grandparents had taken him out for a walk.

During the trial process, she said, she never contacted her son because she wanted to distance him from her case.

"Maybe I will explain to him when he is old enough to understand," she said.

Her release on Monday came during a trial session when the presiding judge agreed to a discharge without an acquittal. This means that she has not been cleared of the charge and could still be arrested again.

Nonetheless, Mr Joko said: "We must be grateful that Siti Aisyah has been freed from a possible serious sentence and she is now together again with her family."

According to him, her release was the fruit of long efforts by the government, including by appointing lawyers to assist her from the time she was detained in 2017.

THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2019, with the headline 'I need some peace, says freed Kim Jong Nam murder suspect'. Print Edition | Subscribe