Malaysia drops murder charge against Indonesian woman in Kim Jong-nam case
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Malaysia drops murder charge against Indonesian woman in Kim Jong-nam case

Siti Aisyah, 26 – along with Doan Thi Huong, 28, from Vietnam – had been suspected of assassinating Kim Jong-nam, 45, by smearing lethal VX nerve agent on his face at Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017. A murder conviction carries a mandatory penalty of death in Malaysia.  The prosecutors for the case told the court on Monday that they had been instructed to withdraw the charge against Aisyah. No reason was given for the move.  The court, however, rejected Aisyah’s request to be fully acquitted from the murder charge, saying the trial had already established a prima facie case and she could be recalled if fresh evidence on the case emerged. “We still believe that she was merely a scapegoat,” Siti Aisyah’s lawyer, Gooi Soon Seng, told reporters. “I still believe that North Korea had something to do with it.” In the meantime, Huong remained in custody. Her lawyer said she was “traumatized” that only Aisyah had been released, and that the court agreed to adjourn the Vietnamese suspect’s testimony to allow her legal team to apply for her murder charge to be dropped as well. From the outset of the case, there were suspicions that the estranged half-brother of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, had been the victim of a political assassination. In the course of the trial last year, CCTV footage from the murder site showed the two suspects rushing to separate bathrooms shortly after the crime and then left the scene in taxis. Prosecutors initially said the murder was similar to the plot of a James Bond movie, and that the two women were well-trained assassins. The pair’s lawyers, however, rejected the claims, saying four North Korean agents had masterminded the murder and provided the women with poison. The women denied the charges, and said they had been tricked by North Korean spies into conducting the hit, believing it was a prank for a reality TV show. Last August, a Malaysian judge ruled that there had been sufficient evidence the suspects had engaged in a “well-planned conspiracy” with the North Koreans to murder Kim. The incident triggered a dispute between Malaysia and North Korea and the two countries withdrew their ambassadors; however, Pyongyang was never officially accused by Kuala Lumpur of having ordered the killing. Before the assassination, Kim Jong-nam had fled North Korea and lived in exile in Macau. He had been critical of his family’s dynastic rule of the North. Jakarta blames North Korea Reacting to the news on Monday, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry said the release had been the outcome of government efforts and that Jakarta was making preparations for Aisyah’s return. The Jakarta government also published a copy of a letter sent by its law minister to his Malaysian counterpart, which put the blame for the assassination on Pyongyang. “Miss Aisyah was deceived and had no awareness whatsoever that she was being used as an intelligence tool of North Korea,” the law minister, Yasonna H. Laoly, wrote. “Miss Aisyah does not have any benefit or profit from the act.”

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