Lawyer confident of Indonesia woman’s acquittal in murder case of Kim’s half brother

In this March 1, 2017 photo, Indonesian Siti Aishah leaves a Malaysian court after she was charged with the murder of North Korea's Kim Jong Nam at the Malaysia airport. (REUTERS file)
Updated 12 July 2018
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Lawyer confident of Indonesia woman’s acquittal in murder case of Kim’s half brother

  • Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong are accused of killing Kim Jong Nam by smearing his face with a piece of cloth laced with the deadly VX nerve agent poison.
  • Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was living in exile in Malaysia at the time of his assassination.

JAKARTA: The Indonesian woman accused of killing Kim Jong Nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, is likely to be acquitted as the evidence against her is circumstantial, her lawyer said on Wednesday.

The Malaysian High Court in Shah Alam, Selangor, has set the date for a court hearing on Aug. 16, when the judge will rule on whether Siti Aisyah, 26, and her co-defendant Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong, 29, will be acquitted or called to make their defense in further court hearings.

“I am confident that Siti Aisyah will be acquitted without her defense being called for as the evidence produced by the prosecutor was wholly circumstantial,” Aisyah’s lawyer Gooi Soon Seng told journalists.

 “There was no eyewitness to the incident and the case was based on CCTV footage, which showed that Siti Aisyah did not attack the deceased,” he said. He added that CCTV footage only showed Doan attacking Kim Jong Nam and, unlike Aisyah, Doan admitted that she had attacked him.

 Both women are accused on separate charges of killing Kim Jong Nam by smearing his face with a piece of cloth laced with the deadly VX nerve agent poison, but are being jointly tried as the evidence and witnesses are the same.

 Gooi said that the prosecutor relied on Kim Jong Nam’s final words to prove that two women attacked him, but there was a contradiction from two witnesses about the number of women who had attacked him.

 A security officer at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, where the murder took place on Feb. 13, 2017, testified in court that Kim Jong Nam told her two women attacked him, however a nurse at the airport clinic testified that he told her he was attacked by one woman. “The nurse’s evidence was corroborated by the doctor’s medical note, which stated that Kim Jong Nam was attacked by one woman. The material contradiction was never explained by the prosecutor,” Gooi said. 

 Other evidence supporting Gooi’s defense of Aisyah’s innocence was that her DNA was not found on a shirt that the prosecutor said contained traces of VX nerve agent. The shirt was confiscated from the hotel room where Aisyah was arrested. The police officer who arrested her and seized the shirt testified that he stored it in a black plastic bag, while the investigating officer said that he received the shirt in a clear plastic bag.

 “There was a break in the chain of evidence,” Gooi said, adding Aisyah’s fingernail clippings also did not show any traces of VX agent and she did not suffer any symptoms relating to VX poisoning.

 Aisyah was also charged in having a common intention to commit murder with four North Koreans, who fled Malaysia after the incident and were still at large but whose names were not mentioned in the charge.

Gooi said that the prosecutor had failed to prove with direct evidence that Aisyah had the intention to kill the deceased.

 “In defense, we told the court that Aisyah was at the airport because she was asked to go there to do a prank,” Gooi said, adding that the burden lay with the prosecution to prove otherwise.

 Gooi said that political assasination could not be ruled out in this case since the four North Korean suspects were allegedly linked to the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, the Foreign Ministry’s director for the protection of Indonesians abroad, told Arab News that the court hearing on Aug. 16 would rule if the evidence and witnesses presented so far would be sufficient to establish a case until proven otherwise.

 “If they are insufficient, Aisyah should be acquitted of the charges against her,” Iqbal said, adding that Aisyah’s defense team had repeteadly asked the judge to put on record the inconsistencies and contradictions of evidence and witnesses presented by the prosecutor.

Aisyah faces a death sentence by hanging if found guilty of murdering Kim Jong Nam.


Video emerges of Macron bodyguard beating protester in Paris

Updated 47 min 11 sec ago
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Video emerges of Macron bodyguard beating protester in Paris

PARIS: A video showing one of French President Emmanuel Macron’s security chiefs beating a student demonstrator, until now cloaked in secrecy, is drawing a fierce public backlash over what is seen as mild punishment and a possible cover-up.
The video of the May 1 event in Paris, revealed by Le Monde on Wednesday evening, shows Alexandre Benalla in a helmet with police markings, and surrounded by riot police, brutally dragging off a woman from a demonstration and then repeatedly beating a young man on the ground. The man is heard begging him to stop. Another man in civilian clothing pulled the young man to the ground.
Police, who had hauled the man from the crowd before Benalla took over, didn’t intervene. Benalla then left the scene. The second man was apparently a gendarme who Le Monde said had worked with Benalla in the past.
The uproar over Benalla’s punishment — a two-week suspension and a change in responsibilities — forced top French officials to address the issue Thursday. But Macron has remained silent. Benalla, who hasn’t commented on the matter, handled Macron’s security during the presidential campaign.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, responding to questions in the Senate, called the event “shocking,” but stumbled to respond to questions, notably whether all French are equal before the law.

Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said that the two men “obviously had no legitimate (reason) to intervene.” He said he has demanded that a police unit which investigates suspected criminal behavior by officers explain the rules for observers and verify whether they were respected.
Condemning the “unacceptable behavior,” Macron spokesman Bruno Roger-Petit said that Benalla was also removed from his responsibilities of organizing security for presidential trips — though he maintains his office at the Elysee Palace.
In addition, authorities launched a preliminary investigation that could lead to charges against Benalla, a judicial official said on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss an ongoing case.
Despite this, Benalla has been seen this month on the ground with police at several high-profile events, including the return home Monday of France’s champion World Cup team, an event attended by hundreds of thousands.
Macron, in the Dordogne region to officially launch a new postage stamp, didn’t respond to questions about the scandal. The upstart centrist elected last year had promised an exemplary presidency during his term to break with unending cases of corruption in French politics.
Roger-Petit said the punishment dealt out to Benalla was the “most serious” ever given to a top aide at the presidential Elysee Palace and served as a “last warning before dismissal.”
Opposition politicians expressed shock, with some denouncing a climate of impunity at the top of the French political hierarchy and asking Macron to personally address the issue.
The head of France’s main conservative party The Republicans, Laurent Wauquiez, asked on Europe 1 radio if the government was trying to “hush the affair.”
Roger-Petit stressed that Benalla had requested authorization to use his day off “to observe” security forces’ operations on May Day when marches are traditionally held. It was granted.
It was unclear why the young man under attack, who wasn’t detained, was singled out by police before Benalla intervened.
“An observer doesn’t act like that,” said the spokesman for the UNSA-Police union. They are typically equipped and briefed in advance, and the framework is “completely clear,” Philippe Capon told BFM-TV.
He couldn’t say why police didn’t stop Benalla.
The context was “special,” he said. “He was an observer from the Elysee. When police officials hear the word ‘Elysee’ there is a particular apprehension.”