Malaysia court frees Indonesian in Kim Jong Nam murder case

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Indonesian national Siti Aisyah leaving the Shah Alam High Court, outside Kuala Lumpur, on March 11, 2019. PHOTO: AFP
Prosecutors told the court they had been instructed to withdraw the charge against Siti Aisyah. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Indonesian Siti Aisyah, arrives at the Shah Alam High Court on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 11, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

SHAH ALAM - The trial of a Vietnamese woman and Indonesian woman accused of killing Mr Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, took a surprise turn on Monday (March 11) when the prosecution dropped charges against the Indonesian co-suspect instead.

Ms Siti Aisyah, 26, was freed after the Shah Alam High Court approved the prosecutors' request to drop the murder charge against her. No reason was given for the request.

Ms Siti Aisyah had been accused alongside Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 30, of killing Mr Kim Jong Nam by smearing VX nerve agent on his face at Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017, in a brazen Cold War-style hit that shocked the world. The women had always denied murder, saying they believed they were taking part in a prank for a reality show and were tricked by North Korean agents into carrying out the hit.

"Siti Aisyah is freed," Judge Azmin Ariffin told the court as he approved the prosecution's request, granting a discharge not amounting to an acquittal. "She can leave now," he said.

Upon hearing the news, Ms Siti Aisyah hugged Doan, and cried. She was later seen smiling as she was ushered out of the courthouse through a pack of journalists and into a car.

"I feel happy. I did not know this will happen. I did not expect it," said Ms Siti Aisyah, who was wearing a red headscarf.

Indonesian ambassador to Malaysia Rusdi Kirana told reporters: "We are pleased with the court decision. We will try to fly Siti back to Indonesia today or as soon as possible."

Ms Siti Aisyah had been working as a masseuse in Kuala Lumpur, while Doan described herself as an entertainer.

"We still believe that she was merely a scapegoat," Ms Siti Aisyah's lawyer Gooi Soon Seng told reporters. "I still believe that North Korea had something to do with it."

Doan's trial, meanwhile, has been postponed pending a request by her lawyer for the murder charge against her to be dropped too.

Mr Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, who represents Doan, asked the court to postpone Monday's proceeding, where his client was initially scheduled to testify for the first time.

"On behalf of Doan, we ask for the AG to review the case and for the charge to be withdrawn on the same ground as Siti Aisyah," he told the court.

"We'll have the representation (to the AG) by today," he said, to which prosecution did not object.

Judge Azmi said although he was reluctant to allow it, but it is in the "interest of justice".

"However, I will only allow until Thursday. You have to come back with the reply from the AGC, so you need to he quick. If the representation is rejected, the trial will go on... I'm only doing this on the basis of justice," Mr Azmi said.

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