- One of the two women accused of murdering the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was abruptly freed Monday, with no reasons given.
- Siti Aisyah, from Indonesia, had been imprisoned for two years on suspicion of killing Kim Jong Nam with a deadly nerve agent in Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
- Both women have said they are innocent of murder and thought they were taking part in a TV prank show. They faced the death penalty.
- Prosecutors have said that both women were trained assassins. “ This type of assassination can only be seen in James Bond movies,” one said.
Malaysia has abruptly released one of the women accused of murdering North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother by smearing his face with nerve agent, and it won’t say why.
Malaysian prosecutors unexpectedly dropped murder charges against Siti Aisyah, an Indonesian woman who had been in custody for two years while on trial over the killing of Kim Jong Nam.
She hugged her codefendant, Doan Thi Huong, who is from Vietnam, in court on Monday before leaving the courtroom. She told reporters that she learned only that morning that she would be freed, the Associated Press reported.
The Malaysian High Court judge discharged Aisyah after prosecutors applied to drop the murder charge against her, according to the AP. Neither the court nor the prosecutors have explained their decision.
In a statement, Malaysian Attorney General Tommy Thomas said her release came after intervention from the Indonesian government, which has lobbied for the charges against her to be dropped. He said in a letter announcing her acquittal to Indonesia’s minister of law and human rights that the decision was made “taking into account the good relations” between the two countries.
The two women were accused of killing Kim Jong Nam by smearing a lethal nerve agent called VX on his face at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 13, 2017.
He was the son of the North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and one of his mistresses and at one point was considered a potential successor.
Both women have consistently maintained their innocence, saying they believed they were taking part in a prank TV show. They both faced the death penalty if convicted.
Video footage of the assassination was obtained by the Japanese TV channel Fuji Television. It is annotated here by the UK’s Channel 5 News.
Aisyah even thought her arrest and subsequent imprisonment were part of the prank, the acting Indonesian ambassador in Malaysia at the time told GQ magazine.
Andreano Erwin told GQ that she accepted reality only when he visited her for a fourth time: “The fourth time, we showed her a newspaper proving Kim Jong Nam had died. When she saw it, she started to cry.”
“I feel so happy,” Aisyah told journalists on Monday, Reuters reported. “I did not expect that today I would be released.”
She could be recalled if fresh evidence emerges, according to Reuters.
During earlier parts of the trial, prosecutors argued that the two women were simply fabricating the game-show-prank narrative.
Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin, the Malaysian attorney prosecuting them in court, called this defence an “ingenious” ploy in June, saying they were both actually highly trained assassins.
“This type of assassination can only be seen in James Bond movies and the two girls were not randomly picked as a scapegoat,” he said.
A Malaysian court in August found there was enough evidence to mount a case against the two women, but their trial was repeatedly delayed, apparently because of issues with witness statements.
A defence lawyer asked for an adjournment in the case against Huong on Monday so the defence could request that charges against her are also dropped, Reuters reported.
Four men have also been charged, but they went on the run and have not been apprehended.
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