Indonesia Still Seeks Consular Access to Female Suspect in Kim Killing

Tia Asmara and Anis Natasha
Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur
170223_ID_Aisyah_1000.jpg Malaysia Ambassador to Indonesia Zahrain Muhamed Hashim speaks to reporters in Jakarta, Feb. 23, 2017.
Tia Asmara/BenarNews

Jakarta said Thursday it was pressing Malaysian authorities to give consular access to an Indonesian woman suspected in the killing of the half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.

Siti Aisyah, 25, is one of two women in Malaysian custody and whom police suspect of having used their hands to smear a toxin on victim Kim Jong Nam at a Kuala Lumpur area airport on Feb. 13. He died later that day after complaining to airport medical staff that he felt ill after a woman had attacked him with a chemical.

“We will continue to urge Malaysia to grant us consular access,” Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told reporters in Jakarta.

“After that … we will then be able to take steps to protect that Indonesian citizen,  and decide what legal guidance to provide,”  he said.

Aisyah allegedly spread the substance on Kim Jong Nam’s face and the second woman, identified by Malaysian police as Doan Thi Huong, a Vietnamese, then swabbed his face with a cloth before both suspects walked away and washed their hands, according to Malaysian Police Chief Khalid Abu Bakar.

But while international suspicion has fallen on government agents from Pyongyang as being behind Kim Jong Nam’s alleged assassination, Malaysian police have named eight North Koreans, including a second secretary at Pyongyang’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur as suspects.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledged Monday that Doan held a Vietnamese passport but it said consular staff in Malaysia were trying to contact her and verify her identification, according to state-run Viet Nam News.

Against police procedures: Ambassador

Police regulations in Malaysia do not allow a suspect to meet with anyone while an investigation is under way, Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia  Zahrain Muhamed Hashim told reporters in Jakarta on Thursday.

“It’s very important that the police investigation not be disturbed or interfered with by any party, and it usually takes a long time,” he said.

He acknowledged that consular access must be given to foreign nationals caught up in legal cases, but said this would be provided after the police investigation is complete.

“Remember, this case is still an investigation. When the investigation is finished, it’s up to Malaysian police whether to charge the suspect or release them due to lack of evidence,” Zahrain said.

“I believe Aisyah’s safety and welfare will be protected in Malaysia, just as it would be in Indonesia,” the ambassador said.

Apart from the two women in custody, Malaysian police are holding one of the eight North Koreans identified in connection with the case, and late Wednesday they released a Malaysian man who was said to be Aiysah’s boyfriend.

‘You should cooperate’

A diplomatic row over the police probe into Kim Jong Nam’s killing ensued between Kuala Lumpur and Pyongyang, after Malaysian officials refused to hand over his body to North Korean authorities without conducting a post-mortem.

Malaysia had also asked Kim Jong Nam’s next-of-kin to come forward and provide DNA samples for official confirmation. An autopsy was done on Feb. 16, but forensics officials have not yet released a full post-mortem report pinpointing the cause of his death.

On Thursday in Malaysia, Police Chief Khalid denied reports that investigators had traveled to Macau – where Kim Jong Nam lived and had a family – to collect DNA from his next-of-kin.

“Not true. We have not sent any team to retrieve any DNA samples or received any sample from any country,” Khalid told journalists in Kuala Lumpur.

A day earlier, the police chief told a news conference that his department had requested the North Korean embassy to hand over one of its diplomats stationed in Kuala Lumpur along with employee of North Korean state airline for questioning in the case.

Khalid suggested Thursday that Malaysian police would follow protocols and respect the diplomatic immunity of Second Secretary Hyon Kwang Song.

“If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to be afraid of. You should cooperate,” Khalid said.

Outside the North Korean embassy on Thursday, members of the youth wing of Malaysia’s main ruling party staged a protest against Pyongyang, which has had long-standing ties with their country.

“We urge the government of Malaysia to reconsider our diplomatic ties with North Korea,” Khairul Azwan, the vice chief of the youth wing of the United Malays National Organization said in a statement.

Meanwhile in North Korea, state-run news agency KCNA published a report Thursday citing a statement from the North’s Korean Jurists Committee that lambasted Kuala Lumpur’s handling of the investigation.

“Malaysia is obliged to hand his body to the DPRK side as it made an autopsy and forensic examination of it in an illegal and immoral manner,” the KCNA report said.

“The biggest responsibility for his death rests with the government of Malaysia as the citizen of the DPRK died in its land,” the report said without naming the person who had died but identifying him as “a citizen of the DPRK bearing a diplomatic passport.”

UMNO Youth vice-chief Khairul Azwan reads a protest note outside the gate of the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Feb. 23, 2017. [AnisNatasha/BenarNews]


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