An Indonesian woman accused of assassinating the North Korean leader’s half-brother was freed Monday after Malaysian prosecutors dropped a murder charge against her, in a shock decision a year and a half after she went on trial.
Siti Aisyah smiled as she was ushered through a pack of journalists and into a car outside the court, where she had been on trial alongside a Vietnamese woman for the murder of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017.
“I feel happy. I did not know this will happen. I did not expect it,” said the 27-year-old, who was wearing a red headscarf.
It was a surprise move as the Shah Alam High Court, outside Kuala Lumpur, had been due only to hear Vietnamese accused Doan Thi Huong testify on Monday.
Huong’s lawyer said she was “traumatised” that only Aisyah had been released, and the court agreed to adjourn the Vietnamese suspect’s testimony to allow her legal team to apply for her murder charge to be dropped.
The women had always denied murder, saying they were tricked by North Korean spies into carrying out the Cold War-style hit using VX nerve agent and believed it was a prank for a reality TV show.
Their lawyers presented them as scapegoats, saying that authorities were unable to catch the real killers. Four North Koreans — formally accused of the murder alongside the women — fled Malaysia shortly after the assassination.
The trial, which began in October 2017, had been due to resume Monday with the defence stage of proceedings after a break of several months.
But at the start of the hearing, prosecutor Muhammad Iskandar Ahmad requested that the murder charge against Aisyah be withdrawn and that she be given a discharge, without providing a reason.
The judge agreed to the request for a discharge not amounting to an acquittal, and ordered Aisyah’s immediate release. This means Aisyah has not been formally cleared of the charge and could in theory be arrested on suspicion of Kim’s murder again.
Aisyah’s lawyer Gooi Soon Seng said he was grateful for the decision: “We still truly believe that she is merely a scapegoat and she’s innocent”.