Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Kim Jong-nam: Two suspects face death by hanging

Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong to be charged with murder after airport attack

Page 1 of 5Kim Jong-nam: Two suspects face death by hanging

Two women arrested in connection with the assassination of Kim Jong-nam will face the death penalty if they are found guilty of murder, Malaysian officials said.

Attorney general Mohamed Apandi Ali told the Straits Times that Siti Aisyah, 28, from Indonesia, and Doan Thi Huong, 25, from Vietnam, will be charged with murder on Wednesday.

In Malaysia, murder carries a mandatory punishment of execution by hanging, although state governors or the head of state, Sultan Muhammad V, can grant clemency.

Kim, the exiled half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jon-un, collapsed and died on 13 February, after being exposed to the potent nerve agent VX. CCTV footage shows two women approach him at Kuala Lumpur airport, with one placing her hands on his face before they both flee.

Aisyah and Huong claim they were paid to participate in what they thought was a TV prank when they approached Kim Jong-nam. However, Malaysian officials say they have evidence the women were trained and rehearsed the deadly attack.

VX is "the most potent known nerve agent", says Straits Times, and is "considered a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations". It has not yet been explained how the women were able to apply the toxic substance without harming themselves.

"Regardless of whether they did or did not know of the murder plot, both appear to have been viewed as expendable by whoever gave them the VX," says Al Jazeera.

A Malaysian national who was also arrested has since been released on bail, while a North Korean man remains in custody. At least seven North Koreans, including a senior diplomat at the pariah state's Malaysian embassy, are wanted in connection with the attack.

Kim Jong-nam 'poisoned by VX nerve agent'

24 February 
Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was killed by a highly toxic nerve agent, Malaysian toxicologists claim.
Kim died on 13 February, after a brief altercation with two women in a check-in hall at Kuala Lumpur airport. CCTV footage appears to show one woman wiping something on his face.
Malaysia now says toxicology reports indicate he was attacked with a highly toxic VX nerve agent, which is classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations, of which North Korea is not a member.
VX, a tasteless and odourless liquid, is the most potent of the known chemical warfare agents. A drop on the skin can kill in minutes.
"The revelation that a banned weapon was used in such a high-profile killing raises the stakes over how Malaysia and the international community will respond," says The New York Times.
Malaysia's police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said that one of the women in the CCTV footage had also fallen ill and "was vomiting". Police intend to decontaminate all areas the suspects are known to have visited as a security measure.
Officials are now investigating how the nerve agent was brought into the country. "If the amount of the chemical brought in was small, it would be difficult for us to detect," Khalid said.
South Korea has suggested the killing was the work of the Pyongyang, a claim North Korea has strongly denied.
The hermit country also accused Malaysia of having "sinister" purposes after Malaysian authorities queried Kim Jong-un's involvement in planning the assassination.

Kim Jong-nam assassination: What is North Korea saying?

23 February
After a ten-day silence, North Korea's state media has spoken out about the death of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of leader Kim Jong-un, accusing Malaysia of fabricating evidence for a "sinister" purpose.
Kim was travelling through Kuala Lumpur airport on Monday 13 February when two women allegedly rubbed poison in his face. He later collapsed and died.
"The very public killing of Mr Kim appears to be another remarkable episode in the annals of bizarre North Korean behaviour, a whodunit with geopolitical implications," says the New York Times. "Speculation swirled that he had been killed to remove him from the line of succession in North Korea."
But the hermit kingdom has hit back and denied any involvement, claiming that Malaysian authorities made up evidence under the influence of its arch-rival South Korea, says the newspaper.
State-run KCNA news agency, while not naming Kim, accused Malaysia of politicising the transfer of his body "in utter disregard of international law and morality" and to "attain a sinister purpose".
It added: "The biggest responsibility for his death rests with the government of Malaysia as the citizen of the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] died in its land."
KCNA also claimed Malaysian authorities originally told North Korean diplomats that Kim died of a heart attack at the airport.
Pyongyang has demanded Malaysia halt all investigations immediately, saying the autopsy and forensic examination of the body were conducted "in an illegal and immoral manner".
Malaysia has refused to hand over the body until it is identified by DNA or next of kin.
"The remarks look set to strain ties further between the two nations, which until now maintained cordial relations including reciprocal visa-free travel," says the Financial Times.
Two women, one Indonesian and one Vietnamese, as well as a North Korean national have been arrested. Authorities are hunting for seven more North Koreans, including a senior official at the embassy in Kuala Lumpur. Four are believed to be back in Pyongyang.

Kim Jong-nam: Break-in attempt at Malaysian mortuary

22 February 
Malaysian officials have stepped up security around the body of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un's half-brother after a break-in attempt at the Kuala Lumpur hospital where he is being held.
Police Inspector-General Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said: "We knew there were attempts by someone to break into the hospital mortuary," told a press conference.
Although he would not name any suspects, the police chief said they were aware of the identity of the perpetrator, the Malay Mailreports.
Special forces personnel are now guarding the body, which is still awaiting DNA identification and autopsy results.
Authorities are also seeking an interview with two North Koreans believed to still be in Malaysia - an employee of state airline Air Koryo and a high-ranking diplomat, "the second secretary of the embassy," Khalid said, adding: "They're not in custody. They've been called in for assistance."
Pyongyang has demanded that Kim Jong-nam's body be handed over. However, under Malaysian law, identification cannot be completed until a relative comes forward to give a DNA sample matching that of the deceased.
Kim Jong-nam collapsed and died on Monday 13 February after an encounter with two women at Kuala Lumpur airport while waiting for a flight to Macau, where he lived with his wife and two children.
Police have arrested Doan Thi Huong, 28, from Vietnam, and 25-year-old Indonesian Siti Aishah, together with her Malaysian boyfriend.
Aishah told police she believed she was participating in a TV prank show when she approached Kim Jong-nam and covered his face with her hands, which apparently contained a deadly toxin.
However, investigators are sceptical, says the Malaysian Star.
Inspector-General Khalid said: "We are ruling out the possibility that the women thought the attack was a prank or even that they believed they were shooting a television show."
Another suspect, 47-year-old North Korean national Ri Jong Chol, has also been taken in for questioning. A total of seven North Koreans are being sought over the suspected assassination.

Kim Jong-nam assassination: CCTV shows moment of attack

20 February
A video apparently showing the moment that Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, was assassinated in Kuala Lumpur airport last Monday has been leaked to the press.
The CCTV footage, first broadcast on Japanese TV, shows him walking through the airport and stopping to look at the departures board, before being approached by two women. One appears to lunge at him from behind, placing her hands briefly over his face.
Kim Jong-nam is then shown talking to police officers, who escort him to the airport's medical clinic.
The 45-year-old died on his way to hospital after being sprayed in the face with a substance thought to be the deadly poison ricin.
Malaysian police later arrested two women: 25-year-old Siti Aishah from Indonesia and 28-year-old Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam.
South Korean investigators initially believed the two women were agents working on behalf of the North Korean regime, but a far stranger tale has since emerged. Aishah, a single mother who had travelled to Malaysia to find work, reportedly told detectives she thought she was participating in a harmless prank when she approached Kim Jong-nam.
Aishah claimed she had been offered money to trick men into closing their eyes before spraying them with water for a TV prank show. Her boyfriend, a Malaysian national, has also been arrested.
Malaysia's deputy inspector-general Noor Rashid Ibrahim told reporters that four North Koreans who left Malaysia on the day of the killing are being sought by police, CNN reports. One North Korean national, Ri Jong Chol, was arrested on Friday.
The unusual case has "sparked a diplomatic row between Pyongyang and Kuala Lumpur" over Kim Jong-nam's body, says the South China Morning Post, with the North Korean ambassador accusing Malaysian investigators of being motivated by a "political aim".
North Korea has demanded that the body be immediately handed over, but this cannot be done until it has been formally identified, which under Malaysian rules involves a family member providing a DNA sample matching that of the deceased. So far, no blood relative has come forward.

Kim Jong-nam assassination: What do we know so far? 

16 February
Two women have been arrested in connection with the assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un's half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, at Kuala Lumpur airport on Monday.
Police stopped a 28-year-old woman carrying Vietnamese travel documents bearing the name Doan Thi Huong as she attempted to board a plane at the airport on Wednesday, the Malaysian Starreports.
The second suspect, aged 25, was picked up in the early hours of Thursday, according to CNN. She was reportedly in possession of an Indonesian passport under the name Siti Aishah.
Kim, 46, collapsed after apparently being splashed or sprayed in the face with a substance by two women in the departure lounge of Kuala Lumpur airport on Monday morning. He died on the way to hospital.
An autopsy suggests he was poisoned with ricin.
US and South Korean authorities said they believed the attackers were North Korean agents working on the orders of his half-brother.
Kim, the eldest son of former North Korean ruler Kim Jong-il, was once seen as likely to take over as leader of the hermit kingdom but fell out of favour in 2001, after being caught using a fake passport to travel to Tokyo Disneyland.
He lived a relatively quiet life since being sent into exile, raising two children in Macau and preferring gambling and fine wines to politics, says the South China Morning Post.
Nonetheless, there has been a "standing order" for his death in place ever since Kim Jong-un acceded to power in 2011, two South Korean lawmakers told The Guardian.
Kim apparently begged his half-brother to call off the order in 2012, after surviving an assassination attempt in Macau.
He had been in hiding following the 2013 execution of their uncle, Jang Song-thaek, on Kim Jong-un's orders.
Shortly before his death, Kim "confided in close friends that he felt like he was living on borrowed time", the South China Morning Post reports.

What led to the assassination of Kim Jong-un's half-brother?

15 February
The half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has died in Malaysia, in what appears to be an assassination ordered by the secretive regime.
Kim Jong-nam was attacked by two women in Kuala Lumpur airport. The women, believed to be North Korean agents, then escaped in a taxi, South Korean broadcaster TV Chosun reports.
Exactly how the attack occurred is still unclear. Police said Kim had been sprayed in the face with an unidentified liquid before complaining of "extreme pain" and being rushed to hospital, where he died. Witnesses earlier suggested he was attacked with needles.
After hours of conflicting reports, a source close to the Malaysian Prime Minister's office confirmed Kim Jong-nam's death to the BBC. His body was undergoing an autopsy, the source said, which would involve a toxicology report.
The 46-year-old, sometimes known as "Kim Chol", was the eldest child of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. For years considered heir apparent, his fortunes turned after he was arrested in May 2001, for using a fake passport at Tokyo airport, apparently en route to Disneyland.
After going into exile, Kim repeatedly advocated Chinese-style economic reform in North Korea while publicly opposing the dynastic transfer of power. He survived an assassination attempt in Macau in 2011 and had been in hiding following the execution in 2013 of his uncle, Jang Song-thaek, on Kim Jong-un's orders.
Since rising to power following the death of his father in 2011, Kim Jong-un has proved ruthless in removing enemies and rivals.
Speaking to the Financial Times, Bong Youngshik, a North Korean expert at Yonsei University in Seoul said if it were proven Pyongyang had orchestrated the assassination, it would mean Kim Jong-un "has absolute control over every nook and cranny of the North Korean system".
"This is the final touch in consolidating power. We must now pay more attention to him for there are no other checks and balances," he said.
Bong also said the development could mean that, having demonstrated his power, the North Korean leader might now feel he has the latitude to strike a deal with US President Donald Trump without appearing weak.


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