Jong Nam murder: 2 accused women given own cells

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KUALA LUMPUR: Pyongyang is likely off the hook over the murder of North Korean Kim Jong Nam, although there was a diplomatic standoff with Malaysia and harsh words were exchanged.

It now appears as if the two women who have been charged with Jong Nam’s murder – Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong – have been left to take the fall, according to a report in Quartz.

It said less than a month ago, the world watched to see who would blink first following the diplomatic standoff between the two nations. Malaysia did.

The embalmed body of Jong Nam, the estranged brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was sent to North Korea, and Putrajaya allowed North Korean nationals at the embassy in Kuala Lumpur to return to Pyongyang.

Pyongyang then released Malaysian diplomatic staff and their family members who had been held there pending the outcome of negotiations between the two governments over the body of Jong Nam.

The report said not only was the standoff over, the effort to hold Pyongyang accountable for a murder on Malaysian soil was also over. South Korea and Malaysia believe North Korea was behind the murder but Pyongyang has denied it.

Now, said the Quartz report, with North Korea off the hook, the two migrant female workers who allegedly smeared Kim with VX nerve agent at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 on Feb 13, have been left to take the fall.

The North Koreans, according to the report, have a long history of disowning their chosen recruits. In 1983, North Korea was accused of planting a bomb in Myanmar in an attempt to kill South Korea’s visiting president. The culprits missed their target but the bomb killed 21 people, including Cabinet members.

Myanmar authorities tracked down three North Korean agents, two of whom were killed. One confessed and was thrown in prison for life. The man was ignored by his government and died behind bars 25 years later, according to the Quartz report.

Siti Aisyah and Doan, who had worked odd jobs in Malaysia’s entertainment industry, had told police they thought the assassination was a television show prank. Police, however, do not believe their story.

Quartz quoted the lawyers for the two women, who are being held in Kajang Prison, as saying that they were being treated well and were in good health.

They are being held separately and, unlike other inmates at the prison, they have their own cells, according to the report.

“I have seen her, she is okay. She is comfortable,” Huong’s lawyer, Naran Singh was quoted as saying.

Gooi Soon Seng, Aisyah’s attorney, told Quartz: “They thought it was a prank they had been playing all along. What we know is that the real culprits behind the case had already escaped to North Korea on the day of the incident.”

Gooi added: “But I really believe that these two naïve girls have actually been used by them (North Korea), to carry out acts on their behalf, unknown to them that they were using poison.”

He admitted that the case would be difficult, as the main suspect, one of the North Koreans who fled the country shortly after the incident was not likely to return to help with the defense.

The two women face the death penalty.