11 March: There was shock today as Siti Aisyah, 26, one of the suspects in the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, half brother of the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, was dramatically freed on the opening day of her trial for murder in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Siti, an Indonesian national, had been arrested on 13 February 2017 along with Doan Thi Huong, 29, a Vietnamese national. The two women had approached Kim Jong-nam in the departure lounge of Kuala Lumpur International Airport and smeared a rag contaminated with a VX nerve agent across his face. The whole incident was caught on CCTV – as any attacker must have known it would be. Kim Jong-nam had been travelling under the alias “Kim Choi” as he knew that he was a likely target of assassination because he was seen as a possible threat to the North Korean leadership.
Their defence has always been that they were tricked into playing a “prank” on Kim which they believed was part of a hidden camera TV show. They alleged that they were tricked into this by four North Koreans who could be seen on CCTV footage watching the incident from nearby. The four were subsequently traced leaving the country immediately after the assassination. However, Siti and Doan have been held in custody for almost two years as their story was not believed. Both women appear to have worked in the shadier side of the Malaysian entertainment and hospitality industry, but have no other obvious criminal or North Korean connections. Malaysian police claimed that they were both knowingly involved in the assassination. However they advanced no evidence in this respect. It is not known why the Malaysian authorities have suddenly changed their minds, nor why the Malaysians have not released Doan. It may be because Doan was the person who actually used the rag and therefore the case against her is stronger.