Malaysia frees Indonesian woman accused of Kim Jong Nam's VX murder

North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur vandalised four men involved | #AsiaNewsNetwork
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North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur vandalised four men involved | #AsiaNewsNetwork Latest Issues

The Indonesian woman accused of killing Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, is to be freed as the murder charge against her is dropped.

A High Court judge last August had found there was enough evidence to infer that Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese suspect Doan Thi Huong, along with four missing North Korean suspects, had engaged in a "well-planned conspiracy" to kill Kim Jong Nam.

"I do not know what will happen to me now. I did not expect it". Intent to kill is crucial to a murder charge under Malaysian law.

The two women denied the charge, claiming that they they were tricked by North Korean agents into believing that they were taking part in a prank for a reality show. Their lawyers argued that they were both used as scapegoats.

Four North Koreans - formally accused of the murder alongside the women - fled Malaysia shortly after the assassination.

The surprise decision came during Monday's court session when the Malaysian judge dropped the murder charge against her, just when she was about to take the stand in her defense after months of delays.

The judge agreed to the request for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal, and ordered Aisyah's immediate release. They did not give a reason.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno L.P. Marsudi in a statement said Siti Aisyah's release was a "sweet" decision and good news for Indonesia after the woman's long ordeal. "Siti is innocent. That's why we keep praying for her", she said. "She was filming a prank and had no intention to kill or injure anyone", he told the Associated Press.

"Doan (Huong) was obviously disappointed", Teh told reporters.

Indonesia's government had lobbied repeatedly for Aisyah's release.

It was not immediately clear why Aisyah was released and not Huong, but Indonesia often makes concerted diplomatic efforts to get its citizens on death row overseas released.

"Thank God. I want to say a thousand "thank you's" if it's really true that she has been freed", Aisyah's aunt Darmi, who goes by one name, told AFP.

Speaking later at the Indonesian embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Aisyah thanked her lawyers, Indonesian authorities and the Malaysian government for securing her release.

Malaysian Attorney General Tommy Thomas responded with his own letter Friday, announcing that the prosecution would effectively drop the case.

Jong Nam fell out of favor with their father, former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, almost two decades ago and lived in self-imposed exile in the Chinese-controlled territory of Macau.

The moment was captured on security camera footage seen around the world. He had been living overseas for years but could have been seen as a threat to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's rule.

Malaysia had been one of the nuclear-armed North's few allies but the assassination badly damaged ties, and led to the countries expelling each other's ambassadors.

Had she been found guilty, she would likely have faced the death penalty.

The Malaysian government is considering abolishing capital punishment for all crimes, however it is uncertain if the changes will be implemented before the sentence is handed down.

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