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

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.

Buber picks up the taxi challenge on the streets of Kabul

Updated 11 min 35 sec ago

Buber picks up the taxi challenge on the streets of Kabul

  • Popular ride-hailing services such as Uber and Careem declined to run on Afghanistan’s chaotic and unmapped roads
  • Buber will be officially launched in Kabul in January 2019

KABUL: Booking a ride that picks you up from your doorstep has been a dream for many Afghans for a long time. The dream is now coming true. After the popular ride-hailing services such as Uber and Careem declined to run on Afghanistan’s chaotic and unmapped roads, a private national firm came up with a local solution: Buber.
Currently on its test run, the service will be officially launched in Kabul in January 2019.
Basharmal Dawlatzai, a Buber driver, says the initiative in a congested city where violence and criminal activities have been part of daily life for years, is a relief for both clients and drivers.
“It is very convenient for both sides, the customer does not need to walk to a street, wait for taxi in cold or hot weather and bargain with a taxi he or she does not know,” Dawlatzai told Arab News. “We go to their homes and drop them at their favored destination, which saves both sides time and hassle.”
He has been with Buber for two months and has taken around employees of Afghanistan’s Holding Group (AHG) that owns Buber, which in Dari means “Take me”.
AHG’s headquarters near the ancient Darul-Aman palace is tucked away behind blast walls with a sprawling compound that enjoys far better security measures than many state institutions which are the targets of routine attacks by militants in Afghanistan.
The security precautions at AHG include a series of body searches by armed guards as well as scanners and the layers of checks that make it look as if the compound is in top-secret location.
There is a different world and mood inside, and for a moment you may think that this is not Afghanistan, given the pace of its work and manner of efficiency. Groups of young sleek men and women are busy typing away on computers or discussing their regular daily activities.
AHG hopes to gallop and make Afghanistan catch up with the revolution in the field of technology that has spread across the globe in recent years.
Staff at AHG say that since its launch in 2009 the company has provided professional business services to more than 700 organizations across Afghanistan. Its clients range from small companies, non-profits and corporations to development institutions and government customers. It offers a range of services that include legal and human resources support and assistance with licensing, visas, payroll, taxation, audit and procurement.
Now, AHG is working on its new innovation, Afghanistan Technology Services (ATS), which covers Hisab (accounting) and Buber, online taxi ordering similar to Uber.
The Hisab application allows customers to pay online power and water bills and order goods for home delivery, as well as paying for Buber.
The online car ordering has been operating in Afghanistan for several years, but business is tailing off for the other two firms, which according to officials had not managed to develop an advanced application.
“Technology is taking over each and every thing across the world, we do not want to be behind those guys and we would like to reach somewhere and rebuild Afghanistan. This is our mission, to rebuild Afghanistan,” said Zaheeruddin Naeabkhail, Buber’s senior manager.
Until its launch in January Buber is on a test run to make sure that the application works smoothly. It has enlisted 500 vehicles, with Kabul being the immediate target, and with the intention to expand to other major cities later.
Not many will be able to afford the Buber service: Smart phone owners and literate people are its target.
Even the drivers will have to be literate.
In a country where there is no fixed rate for taxis and customers usually bargain, Buber will have fixed prices and can come to a customer’s desired address for pick up.
In a country riven by violence and crimes, such as abductions, Buber can offer peace of mind to clients as it has a tracking mechanism which clients can share with anyone they want to for their safety, AHG officials said.
“The problem for now in the market is the security concern. We have this facility for the user as well as the driver that allows them to be able to track users through our GPS,” Naeabkhail said.
Drivers will be registered with full details for security measures and they can help the police with information if anything happens to a client between pickup and drop-off.
The application can be a great help for the customer to avoid congested areas and routes where there is protest or there has been an attack, officials said, adding this will save time for the client and money for the driver, as well as reducing pollution.
“This application is very challenging application, nobody else has it, it is not easy for others to build it easily. Afghans have developed the application themselves,” Naeabkhail said.
Roadblocks created by officials, some embassies, foreign troops and factional leaders are the key challenges and Buber hopes to address that with the help of Google, he said.
“The main challenge that we face is the map, because Afghanistan is not mapped very well. We would like the support of Google if they are willing to help us … it is like general support for the public at large and also for any company that comes later and invests.”