Kim Jong-nam killing: Charges dropped, accused woman to be freed

Indonesian freed after murder charge dropped in Kim Jong Nam killing

Siti Aisyah smiled as she was ushered into a vehicle outside the court, where she had been on trial for a year and a half alongside a Vietnamese woman for the 2017 murder of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur airport.

One of two women accused of killing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's half brother by smearing VX nerve agent on his face was freed Monday after Malaysian prosecutors unexpectedly dropped the murder charge against her.

Prosecutors withdrew the charge against Siti Aisyah without giving a reason, and she was discharged without an acquittal.

Prosecutors had presented their case in the first stage of the trial.

Aisyah and Huong were charged with murdering Kim Jong Nam shortly after his death in February 2017, and faced the death penalty if convicted.

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

Following the dramatic decision to release Siti Aisyah, a defense lawyer asked for an adjournment in the case against Huong in order to submit a request that charges be dropped against her too. She told reporters that she had only learned that morning that she would be freed.

Prosecutor Iskandar Ahmad said that the discharge not amounting to acquittal means Aisyah can be recharged if there is fresh evidence, but that there are no such plans for now.

Kim 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 Jong-un.

Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly, who accompanied Siti at the press conference, thanked the Malaysian government for its support, following intense lobbying by Indonesia, which included talks with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and its attorney-general, Tommy Thomas.

"We are hoping against hope that the charges against her will be dropped", said Teh Poh Teik, Huong's lawyer.

She was arrested by Malaysian authorities in connection with the murder of Kim Chol (Kim Jong Nam), 45, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 departure hall on Feb 13, 2017.

It was a surprise move as the court had been scheduled to hear Huong - who was in court alongside Aisyah - testify on Monday.

Once free of the courthouse, Aisyah was ushered into an Indonesian embassy vehicle waiting outside.

"Since the very beginning we believe that she is not guilty".

From the outset of the case, there were suspicions that Kim Jong Nam was the victim of plot arranged by North Korean agents who left Malaysia in the hours after the killing, and the two women had been merely pawns in a political assassination. But the court agreed to resume proceedings on Thursday instead, pending a reply from the attorney-general to the request that charges against her also be withdrawn.

The murder had triggered a diplomatic row between Malaysia and North Korea.

But speaking to reporters through an interpreter in court, Huong said she felt "terrible" about her own position.

Gooi said there was no "direct evidence" of the Indonesian woman's involvement in the killing.

Vietnam's Doan Thi Huong, 29, remains on trial for the murder of Kim Jong-Nam.

Aisyah arrived later Monday in Jakarta, where she was reunited with parents. Some believe that Kim Jong Un saw him as a threat his rule.

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