Monday 11 March 2019

Kim Jong-nam murder suspect released after charge dropped.

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A Malaysian court has dropped the case against one of two women
 charged with the murder of the estranged brother of the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, in a shock decision that delighted her friends and family.
Siti Aisyah was released from custody and flew home to Indonesia on Monday after the decision at a court in Kuala Lumpur.
Along with Doan Thi Huong, from Vietnam, Siti had been charged with the murder of Kim Jong-nam in Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017. The women were accused of smearing the toxic nerve agent VX on his face as he waited to board a flight to Macau. He died within 20 minutes.
Both Siti and Doan claimed they had unknowingly been tricked into carrying out the attack by North Korean operatives, who told them they were playing a prank for a Japanese comedy show. They both claim they thought they were smearing lotion on Kim Jong-nam’s face.
Surrounded by government officials and a mob of reporters at Jakarta’s airport after her arrival on Monday evening, Siti struggled for words as journalists shouted questions. With a prompt from Indonesia’s law and human rights minister, she thanked the president, Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, and other officials for helping secure her release.
Earlier, dressed in a maroon headscarf and black trousers adorned with bright flowers, Siti looked tired and pale as she entered the Indonesian embassy, accompanied by the Indonesian ambassador and other officials, but gave a small smile to the gathered journalists.
Tears came into her eyes as she spoke to reporters. “I am very happy, I did not expect my release,” said Siti, who had earlier hugged Doan in the dock when the news was announced. “This is my day of freedom. Thank you to the Indonesian president, Jokowi, and the Indonesian ministries and the government who assigned a Malaysian lawyer for me. Thank you to the Malaysian government for releasing me.”
Siti told Indonesian TV that during her time in jail she had “already surrendered myself to God”, adding that it was “the support of my family – my mother, my father – and the embassy, that kept me going. Now I want to see them.”
In Siti’s Indonesian hometown of Sindangsari, crowds gathered to celebrate the shock acquittal. Siti’s parents, who had been vocal defenders of their daughter’s innocence and regularly spoke to her by phone from prison, had flown to Kuala Lumpur for the trial so were not present, but her aunt Darmi, who goes by one name, said she would be organising a welcome home celebration for her niece.
“Thank God. I want to say a thousand ‘thank yous’ if it’s really true that she has been freed,” she told AFP. “They should bring her here straight away because she’s not guilty. We’ve heard the news and we’re so happy. We’re getting a celebration ready.”
Prosecutors did not give any reason for the remarkable retreat in their case against Siti. While the court her from the case, it rejected her lawyer’s request for a full acquittal, as it said that the trial had already established a prima facie case and she could be recalled if fresh evidence emerged.
Indonesia’s government said Siti’s release was the result of its continual high-level lobbying.
Jokowi, who is facing an election next month, met the Malaysian prime minister, Mahathir, last July to address Siti’s case.
According to a letter signed by the Malaysian attorney general on 8 March, the decision to drop the charges against Siti came after taking into consideration “the good relations between our respective countries”.
The foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday that Siti was “deceived and did not realize at all that she was being manipulated by North Korean intelligence”.
The ministry said Siti’s plight was raised in “every bilateral Indonesia-Malaysia meeting, both at the president’s level, the vice-president and regular meetings of the minister of foreign affairs and other ministers with their Malaysian partners”.
The discharge order applies only to Siti. Doan’s trial is to resume on Thursday, when prosecutors are expected to reply to a request her lawyers for the government to withdraw the murder charge against her as well. Doan was distraught on Monday, telling reporters after Siti left: “I am in shock. My mind is blank.”
Kim had originally been the favoured child to take over from his father, Kim Jong-il, but became estranged from the family after an incident in 2001, when he was arrested trying to get into Japan on a fake Dominican passport with the Mandarin alias “fat bear”. He later admitted he had been trying to visit Disneyland in Tokyo.
The incident was said to have caused embarrassment to Kim Jong-il, who cut ties with his son and refused to let him back to Pyongyang. Kim Jong-nam instead settled in the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau. He expressed little desire to return to North Korea, and angered his younger brother, who took over the leadership in 2011, by saying the world would view Kim Jong-un’s leadership as a “joke”.
However, Kim was reported to have become increasingly fearful and paranoid in the past few years, fearing retribution from his brother. The court case revealed he had been carrying 12 doses of an atropine, an antidote to VX nerve agent, in his bag at the time of his death.
His death sparked a diplomatic standoff between North Korea and Malaysia, with the countries briefly banning the other’s citizens from leaving.
The Guardian

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