Indonesian Woman Freed in Kim Jong-nam Murder Trial
In a surprise move, Malaysian prosecutors withdrew murder charges on March 11 against Indonesian national Siti Aisyah, one of two suspects in the 2017 assassination of Kim Jong-nam, the brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The murder trial will proceed against Vietnamese national Doan Thi Hoang, the second defendant.
According to BBC, the two women approached Kim Jong-nam at the Kuala Lumpur airport and smeared lethal doses of the nerve agent VX on his face. Both women claim they were unaware of the assassination plot and thought they were participating in an elaborate prank for a television show, BBC reports.
According to Channel NewsAsia, the women’s lawyers claim that they are being used as legal scapegoats for four North Koreans who were also charged for murder by Malaysia but fled the country before arrest.
According to the Straits Times, the trials have proceeded slowly, lasting over a year, complicated by the number of witnesses and infrequent hearings. Aisyah’s trial was abruptly put on hold last December, and the status of both trials was uncertain until the March 11 announcement.
The Guardian reports that pressure from Indonesia, which will be holding a presidential election in April, played a significant role in charges against Aisyah being dropped. The Vietnamese government has unsuccessfully called for Hoang’s release, and her lawyer Hisham Teh Poh Teik has labeled the decision to continue her trial “discrimination.”
Hoang has since been deemed “mentally and physically” unfit to stand trial, which has delayed the trial until April 1.
According to Channel NewsAsia, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad defended his decision to release Aisyah: “There is a law that allows charges to be withdrawn. That was what happened. I do not know in detail the reasons.”