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World & Nation

Malaysia drops charges against suspect in killing of Kim Jong Un’s half brother

Siti Aisyah, Gooi Soon Seng
Siti Aisyah smiles with her lawyer Gooi Soon Seng after a news conference at the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 11.
(Vincent Thian / Associated Press)

An Indonesian woman held for two years on suspicion of killing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother was freed from custody Monday after Malaysian prosecutors unexpectedly dropped the murder charge against her.

Siti Aisyah cried and hugged her Vietnamese co-defendant, Doan Thi Huong, before leaving the courtroom and being ushered away in an Indonesian Embassy car. She told reporters that she had only learned Monday morning that she would be freed.

Huong was distraught following Aisyah’s release.

“I am in shock. My mind is blank,” Huong told reporters after Aisyah left.

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The trial is to resume Thursday, when prosecutors are expected to reply to a request by Huong’s lawyers for the government to also withdraw the charges against her.

Indonesia’s government had lobbied repeatedly for Aisyah’s release. Vietnam has pushed less hard and recently hosted Kim Jong Un for an official visit and a summit with President Trump.

Kim Jong Un’s half brother, Kim Jong Nam, died after being assaulted in an airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 13, 2017. The two young women were accused of smearing VX nerve agent on his face.

They have said they thought they were taking part in a prank for a TV show. They had been the only suspects in custody after four North Korean suspects fled the country the morning Kim was killed.

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On Monday, the High Court judge discharged Aisyah without an acquittal after prosecutors applied to drop the murder charge against her. They did not give any reason.

Officials said she was expected to fly back to Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, later Monday.

“I feel very happy,” Aisyah said at a news conference at the Indonesian Embassy. “I didn’t expect that today will be my freedom day.”

Lawyers for the women have previously said that they were pawns in a political assassination with clear links to the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and that the prosecution failed to show the women had any intention to kill. Intent to kill is crucial to a murder charge under Malaysian law.

Malaysian officials have never officially accused North Korea and have made it clear they don’t want the trial politicized.

Kim was the eldest son in the current generation of North Korea’s ruling family. He had been living abroad for years but could have been seen as a threat to Kim Jong Un’s rule.


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