One of two women accused of killing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother by smearing VX nerve agent on his face was freed after two years of detention yesterday when Malaysian prosecutors unexpectedly dropped the murder charge against her.
Indonesian Siti Aisyah and her Vietnamese co-defendant, Doan Thi Huong, have said they thought they were taking part in a prank for a TV show. Huong, who remains on trial, was distraught. “I am in shock. My mind is blank,” she told reporters after Aisyah left.
Prosecutors did not give any reason for the remarkable retreat in their case against Aisyah in the killing of Kim Jong Nam at a busy Kuala Lumpur airport terminal. Indonesia’s government had lobbied repeatedly for her release. Vietnam has pushed less hard on behalf of Huong, and recently hosted leader Kim Jong Un for an official visit and a summit with President Donald Trump.
Aisyah cried and hugged 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. She flew back to Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, later Monday and thanked the president and other officials for their help.
“I feel happy, very happy that I cannot express in words,” she told reporters at Jakarta’s airport. “After this I just want to gather with my family.” The two women had been the only suspects in custody after four North Korean suspects fled the country the morning of Feb. 13, 2017, when Kim Jong Nam was killed.
The trial is to resume Thursday, and prosecutors are expected to reply to a request by Huong’s lawyers for the government to withdraw the murder charge against her as well. The High Court judge discharged Aisyah without an acquittal yesterday after prosecutors applied to drop the murder charge against her.
Prosecutor Iskandar Ahmad said that means Aisyah can be charged again if there is fresh evidence, but there are no such plans now. Aisyah’s release came just a month before Indonesia’s general election and is seen as a boost to President Joko Widodo, who is seeking re-election.