Kim Jong Nam killing: KL to free N. Korean

A North Korean (far left), identified by the Malaysian police as Mr Ri Jong Chol, being taken to a police station in Sepang on Feb 18.
A North Korean (far left), identified by the Malaysian police as Mr Ri Jong Chol, being taken to a police station in Sepang on Feb 18.PHOTO: REUTERS

Man to be deported after release due to lack of evidence to charge him over poisoning

North Korean citizen Ri Jong Chol is set to be released today and deported due to lack of evidence to indict him over the murder of Mr Kim Jong Nam on Feb 13.

Attorney-General Apandi Ali told The Straits Times that Mr Ri, based in Kuala Lumpur since 2013, will be freed when his two-week remand period ends today and "deported as he has no valid travel documents".

"Releasing him due to insufficient evidence to charge," he said in a WhatsApp message yesterday.

This comes after police questioned Mr Ri and his family, and raided his home, following reports that he had been in contact with four other North Koreans who left Malaysia the same day that Mr Kim, the estranged half-brother of North Korea's leader, was killed.

Two foreign women have been charged with Mr Kim's murder after they allegedly smeared a deadly nerve agent on his face at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 as the 45-year-old was preparing to board a flight to Macau. He died on the way to hospital.

Mr Ri has been in Malaysia on a work permit sponsored by health products trader Tombo Enterprises. The company's owner admitted sponsoring Mr Ri's work permit to facilitate business deals, but denied that the 47-year-old was an employee.

North Korea, which is accused by South Korea of ordering Mr Kim's assassination, has refused to acknowledge the victim as Mr Kim, insisting that his name is Kim Chol, as given in the passport found on him.

North Korea has also alleged that Malaysia subverted investigations in a conspiracy with its enemies.

A high-level North Korean delegation told reporters yesterday that Mr Kim Chol had a history of heart disease and needed medication for his condition, rejecting autopsy findings that he had been poisoned.

"He, from time to time, had treatment while being hospitalised," said Mr Ri Tong Il, a former ambassador to the United Nations. "Therefore, this is strong indication that the cause of death is a heart attack."

 

A South Korean activist group, Fighters For Free North Korea, said yesterday that it will use balloons to drop millions of leaflets across the border this month. The leaflets aim to tell North Koreans, often in the dark about news outside their country, about Mr Kim's death and that their leader, Mr Kim Jong Un, had ordered him killed to tighten his own grip on power.

Malaysian police are still looking for seven North Koreans, including an embassy official, to help in investigations.

The North Korean delegation met Foreign Ministry officials here on Wednesday, but neither side has revealed what transpired. However, Mr Ri's release today would appear to have figured in the talks.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2017, with the headline 'Kim Jong Nam killing: KL to free N. Korean'. Print Edition | Subscribe