Kim Jong-nam: Indonesian woman freed in murder case

Siti Aisyah surrounded by reportersImage copyright
AFP

Image caption

Siti Aisyah was able to leave the court immediately

The Indonesian woman accused of killing Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, has been freed after the murder charge against her was dropped.

Siti Aisyah had been accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Mr Kim’s face in Kuala Lumpur airport in 2017.

She and her co-accused, Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, deny murder and say they thought they were part of a TV prank.

Ms Aisyah could have faced the death penalty if convicted.

The prosecutor in the case requested the murder charge be dropped, without giving a reason. The Judge approved the request, saying “Siti Aisyah is freed”. However, this does not amount to an acquittal according to the APF news agency.

BBC correspondent Jonathan Head, who is at the court in Kuala Lumpur, says there appears to have been less evidence against Ms Aisyah than against her Vietnamese co-defendant.

Ms Huong was expected to read a statement in court on Monday, which would be the first time either of the two had given testimony.

How did the murder happen?

Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader, had been waiting to board a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Macau on 13 February 2017 when two women approached him in the departure area.

CCTV footage showed one of them placing her hands over his face, then both women leaving the scene.

Mr Kim died on the way to hospital from what was later found to be exposure to the nerve agent VX, one of the most toxic of all known chemical agents.

Image copyright
AFP/Getty Images

Image caption

Kim Jong-nam, pictured in 2001, the late half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un

North Korea has fiercely denied any involvement in the killing, but four men – believed to be North Koreans who fled Malaysia on the day of the murder – have also been charged in the case.

They remain at large despite an Interpol “red notice”, equivalent to an international arrest warrant.

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What is the women’s defence?

The two women – both in their 20s – have said they were innocent victims of an elaborate North Korean plot.

According to their lawyers, in the days before Mr Kim’s death the women had been paid to take part in pranks where they wiped liquid on people at airports, hotels and shopping malls.

They thought the airport was just another prank. Their lawyers had expressed confidence that the court would see they had no motive to kill Mr Kim.

After the court’s surprise decision on Monday, the Indonesian ambassador to Malaysia told reporters they would “try to fly Siti back to Indonesia today or as soon as possible,” according to AFP.

Who was Kim Jong-nam?

Kim Jong-nam was the older half-brother of North Korea’s authoritarian ruler, Kim Jong-un.

He was once seen as a future leader of the isolated country, but when his father Kim Jong-il died, was bypassed in favour of the younger Kim.

He was largely estranged from the family, and spent most of his time overseas in Macau, mainland China and Singapore.

He had spoken out in the past against his family’s dynastic control of North Korea, and in a 2012 book was quoted as saying he believed his half-brother lacked leadership qualities.

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