KUALA LUMPUR - Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has denied that the Malaysian government caved in to diplomatic pressure to free an Indonesian woman accused of killing the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
"I have no information (regarding that)," Tun Dr Mahathir said in response to journalists questions at a press conference in parliament on Tuesday (March 12), reported The Star.
He was quoted as saying the release of the woman, 26-year-old Siti Aisyah, was made in accordance with the law.
"This is a decision made by the court. She was given a trial and she was discharged. So it's a process that follows the law. I don't know the details. But, the prosecution can grant a discharge not amounting to an acquittal," said Dr Mahathir.
Ms Aisyah was freed on Monday after Malaysian prosecutors dropped charges against her in a shock move in court. The Indonesian government had repeatedly lobbied for charges against her to be dropped and for her to be allowed to return home.
Malaysia released Ms Aisyah - one of two women accused of assassinating Mr Kim Jong Nam in February 2017 - after "taking into account the good relations" between the two countries, Malaysia's Attorney-General Tommy Thomas wrote in a letter announcing her acquittal to Indonesia's Minister of Law and Human Rights Yasonna Laoly.
The Malaysian Attorney-General's Chambers issued the order last Friday not to prosecute Ms Aisyah according to the letter revealed by the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
The Indonesian Embassy had in a statement said that its President Joko Widodo had ordered efforts to secure her release immediately after she was arrested on Feb 15, 2017, two days after Kim was murdered at KLIA 2.
Upon considering the request, Mr Thomas wrote that the "prosecution will request the court to order a discharge not amounting to an acquittal".
According to Indonesia's Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly, Indonesian government officials had held meetings with PM Mahathir, Mr Thomas, and Malaysian police last year as part of their lobbying efforts to free Ms Aisyah.
Ms Aisyah was arrested alongside Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 30, for the sensational murder of Mr Kim at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
The two women denied the murder, saying they believed they were taking part in a prank for a reality show and were tricked by North Korean agents into killing Mr Kim Jong Nam by smearing VX nerve agent on his face at the Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017.
Ms Aisyah had been working as a masseuse in Kuala Lumpur, while Doan described herself as an entertainer.
Interpol issued a red alert for four North Koreans who Malaysian police identified as suspects and who left the country hours after the murder.
Doan is due to enter her defence on the charge of murdering Mr Kim, who was 45, on Tuesday.