Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – An Indonesian woman accused of the killing of the North Korean leader’s half brother was released after the prosecutor withdrew the murder charge.
No reasons were given by the prosecution for its surprise decision on Monday to drop the murder case. An Indonesian diplomatic vehicle was seen taking Siti Aisyah, 27, away from the court after a judge dropped the charge.
Siti’s lawyer Gooi Soon Seng said the woman was grateful that she had been freed. “She is very happy. Anyone who has been incarcerated for two years … of course she cried. Tears of joy,” he said.
Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong, 30, was also charged with Kim’s murder, but she remained in custody.
The women were accused of killing Kim by smearing a toxic agent, known as VX, on his face while he was at Kuala Lumpur’s airport on February 13, 2017.
He was the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who reportedly had a falling out with the regime and lived in exile.
VX, or Venomous Agent X, is a deadly poison that was developed for chemical warfare and is considered a weapon of mass destruction.
Suspicions have been raised that Kim was killed by North Korean agents who left Malaysia hours after the murder, and the two women were set up to appear to be the perpetrators.
The women had previously told the court they did not know they were participating in a deadly attack and their alleged North Korean coconspirators had led them to believe they were carrying out a prank for a reality TV show.
Gooi said there was no “direct evidence” of the Indonesian woman’s involvement in the killing.
“We truly believe she’s a scapegoat and she is innocent as we laid out [before],” he said. “I still believe that North Korea had something to do with it.”
The prosecutor said the discharge – not amounting to an acquittal – means Sita can be recharged but there are no such plans for now.
Indonesian Ambassador Rusdi Kirana expressed gratitude for the decision.
“We feel the court is fair. She’s our daughter. Every Indonesian is our children,” Rusdi said.
Huong’s fate remains unclear as her hearing was adjourned until Thursday.
Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, Huong’s lawyer, said he is applying for a full acquittal and his client was “traumatised” by the decision to free Siti but not her.
“We want Doan to be treated equally. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,” Hisyam said. “They withdrew the charge against one but not the other. What is the basis? We need to know.”
Unlike Huong, Siti had no traces of VX in her fingernails and suffered no symptoms of VX poisoning.
Kim Jong Nam, the eldest son of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, had spoken out publicly against his family’s dynastic control of the isolated, nuclear-armed nation.
He had been living under China’s protection in the territory of Macau.
The Malaysian government has avoided accusing North Korea of involvement and sought to de-politicise the case as much as possible.