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Malaysia to Deport North Korean Held in Airport Killing

  • VOA News

Vietnamese suspect Doan Thi Huong, second from right, in the ongoing assassination investigation, is escorted by police officers out from Sepang court in Sepang, Malaysia on March 1, 2017.

Malaysian authorities are preparing to deport a North Korean man who has been held as a suspect in connection with last month’s death of Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Ri Jon Chol, 45, has been in custody for nearly two weeks following the February 13 attack on Kim at an airport in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali said Thursday that the period under which Kim can be held without charges is set to run out, and that there is not enough evidence to file any charges against him, so he will be deported Friday.

The two main suspects in the case, Siti Aisyah, a 25-year-old Indonesian, and 28-year-old Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam, were charged with murder Wednesday.

The women were not asked to enter pleas in the case, but have said they are innocent, and believed they were taking part in a prank for a television show.They each face the death penalty if convicted, and are due back in court in April.

They are accused of being the two women shown on security camera footage smearing something on Kim Jong Nam’s face in the departures area of the airport. He died 20 minutes later from what authorities say was the effects of the powerful VX nerve agent.

North Korea has not confirmed that the dead man is Kim Jong Nam, and is demanding that Malaysia release the body.

On Thursday, former North Korean Ambassador to the United Nations Ri Tong Il said the man identified by his passport as Kim Chol had a history of heart problems, and that there is a "strong indication" a heart attack was the cause of death. He said if VX was really used, then samples should be sent to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons for testing and determining its source.

He also suggested rival South Korea could be behind the killing as a way to divert attention from its own problems.

The case has attracted huge international interest and hundreds of reporters were at the courthouse, but only a selected few were permitted inside the courtroom. Lawyer Selvam Shanmugam, who is representing Doan, told a reporter for VOA’s Vietnamese service that her client was calm during the proceedings and is maintaining her innocence.

A TV screen shows pictures of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his older brother Kim Jong Nam, left, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Feb. 14, 2017
A TV screen shows pictures of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his older brother Kim Jong Nam, left, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Feb. 14, 2017


Shanmugam said by telephone that a delegation of “many more” lawyers from the Vietnamese bar will arrive in Kuala Lumpur Thursday to work on Doan’s defense.

The court Wednesday also issued a gag order meant to prevent police and potential witnesses from making public statements about the case.

North Korea has not confirmed that the dead man is Kim Jong Nam, and is demanding that Malaysia release the body.

Kim Jong Nam was the older estranged brother of Kim Jong Un. Kim Jong Nam was once considered the heir apparent to lead North Korea, but he fell out of favor with their father, the late dictator Kim Jong Il, after a failed 2001 attempt to enter Japan on a forged passport to visit Disneyland.

Since then, Kim Jong Nam had lived in virtual exile, primarily in the Chinese territory of Macau.

Trung Nguyen contributed to this article.

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