Tight security, media frenzy as Malaysia deports North Korean suspect in Kim Jong Nam case

Mr Ri Jong Chol leaving the police station before being deported yesterday. He has been blacklisted from entering Malaysia in the future.
Mr Ri Jong Chol leaving the police station before being deported yesterday. He has been blacklisted from entering Malaysia in the future.PHOTO: REUTERS

SEPANG (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - North Korean chemist Ri Jong Chol, who was remanded for two weeks over the murder of Kim Jong Nam, was deported on Friday (March 3) under heavy guard, escorted by several vehicles to the tarmac of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) before being put on a plane to Beijing.

The 47-year-old was freed by the police as there was insufficient evidence. He was led out of the Sepang police headquarters at around 8.50am on Friday. He was seen wearing a bulletproof vest and was flanked by several policemen, also in bulletproof vests.

The seven-vehicle convoy went to the immigration headquarters in Putrajaya to have Ri processed for deportation, with members of the Malaysian and foreign media in pursuit.

Just after 9am, the convoy arrived at the building where another group of media personnel had been waiting since 7am. Some photographers raced to take pictures. However, some of them fell as the cars did not stop but drove straight into the basement carpark.

About an hour later, North Korean embassy official Kim Yu Song arrived. He left shortly before noon, shouting "No comment!" at the media that followed and bombarded him with questions.

Several false alarms later, a large police convoy was seen entering the basement car park at 3pm. Fifteen minutes later, the convoy left for the airport.

At the KLIA, Ri was driven straight to the airport runway via an emergency entrance meant for Fire and Rescue Department vehicles at about 3.40pm. As usual, he was escorted by armed policemen.

Kim was seen at the airport departure hall, continuing his "no comment" tirade against the media.

Two North Korean embassy vehicles, believed to be carrying Ri's family, approached the departure hall entrance and were surrounded by the media.

The two cars were then seen leaving. It is believed that the family switched vehicles to evade the media.

Another car with an embassy logo was later seen heading towards the runway. It is believed that Ri's family was in the car with embassy officials. The family returned to the embassy later in the day.

Immigration Department Director-General Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali said in a statement on Friday that Ri was escorted by two North Korean embassy officials on the flight to China. It is believed that Ri left the country on a MAS flight to Beijing en route to Pyongyang.