Kim Jong-Nam Assassination – Indonesia Returned Yacht Equanimity, So Malaysia Released Suspect Siti Aisyah

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Mar 19 2019
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When Malaysian prosecutors unexpectedly dropped the murder charge against 26-year-old Siti Aisyah, and Indonesian who had been held two years on suspicion of killing the North Korean leader’s half brother, Kim Jong Nam, it raises millions of eyebrows. The judge discharged her without an acquittal after prosecutors said they wanted to withdraw the charge.


Prosecutors did not give any reason for the remarkable withdrawal. Siti Aisyah was accused alongside Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam of assassinating Kim by smearing VX nerve agent on his face at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2. But how could she be freed so easily? According to the prosecutor, the discretion to charge or not to charge a person lies with the Attorney General Tommy Thomas.


Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad insisted that the release of the Indonesian woman was made in accordance with the law. He has also denied that his government was under diplomatic pressure to free the suspect, despite the fact that the Indonesian government had repeatedly lobbied for charges against Siti to be dropped and for her to be allowed to return home.

North Korean Kim Jong-nam and Kim Jong-un

However, according to a letter revealed by the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, A.G. Tommy Thomas had decided to drop the murder charge against Siti after “taking into account the good relations between our respective countries”. Hence, the Indonesian was released on March 10 upon the prosecution’s request to the Court to order a “discharge not amounting to acquittal”.


Indonesia’s Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly had requested (or rather demanded) for Siti’s release based on three reasons. They argued that their citizen was a victim of deception and had nothing to gain from committing the act. Indonesia also claimed that Siti Aisyah “had no awareness whatsoever that she was being used as an intelligence tool of North Korea”.


In fact, it was revealed that Indonesian government officials had held meetings with PM Mahathir, A.G.Thomas, and Malaysian police last year as part of their lobbying efforts to free Siti Aisyah. No matter what was the argument presented by Indonesia, Siti was involved in the assassination of Dictator Kim Jong-Un’s half brother.

North Korean Kim Jong Nam Assassination - Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong and Indonesian Siti Aisyah

Naturally, after the stunning release of Siti Aisyah on March 10, Vietnam did the same thing – asking that their citizen be released. Unfortunately, the Attorney General Chambers of Malaysia rejected Vietnam’s request to free Doan Thi Huong, raising accusation that the public prosecution has not acted fairly and practised double standard, not to mention screams discrimination.


Defense lawyers from both sides have maintained the women were pawns in an assassination orchestrated by North Korean agents. If the prosecution could accept the Indonesian’s argument that Ms Siti was a victim of deception and had nothing to gain from committing the act, why can’t the same argument applies to Ms. Doan?


Newly appointed Malaysian Bar president Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor was equally puzzled as to the bizarre decisions of Attorney General Chambers. While it is true that the Attorney General was not obliged to give an explanation, he said it was abnormal for two individuals to be charged with the same crime but for one person to have his or her charges dropped.

Attorney General Tommy Thomas - Constitutional Law Expert and Civil Litigator

The answer to the injustice is way beyond the rule of law, as Mahathir would like everyone to believe. And the real reason for the acquittal of the Indonesian Siti Aisyah, while Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong remains charged, can be found in the A.G. Tommy Thomas’ explanation in his letter to the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur – the bilateral Indonesia-Malaysia relationship.


The relationship between Indonesia and Malaysia is similar to U.S.-Canada relationship. What the U.S. wants from Canada, the Americans would get it most of the time, as can be seen in the U.S.’ request to arrest Huawei CFO Sabrina Meng Wanzhou. Indonesia is always seen as the big brother of Malaysia, largely due to the sharing of the same ancestry.


That’s why you don’t see the opposition parties, especially UMNO Malay nationalist party and PAS Islamist party, protest over the sudden release of Indonesian Siti Aisyah, despite the glaring injustice. None of the leaders from UMNO or PAS dares to milk the issue for political gains. They chose to pretend nothing had happened.

The Equanimity Super Yacht - Dorks at Port Klang Malaysia

More importantly, Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad owed Indonesia President “Jokowi” Joko Widodo a favour after their meeting in Jakarta last June. Two months later, the fruitful meeting saw Indonesia returning Equanimity, the luxury US$250 million superyacht, to Malaysia. But that was not the only things that both leaders discussed.


In exchange for the return of the yacht, bought with money stolen from 1MDB by Jho Low, the partner-in-crime of former PM Najib Razak, Malaysia has agreed to release Siti Aisyah. Mahathir was right to say his government was not under diplomatic pressure to release the Indonesian woman. It was part of the deal to help each other to achieve what both leaders wanted.


After released, Siti said – “I feel happy. I did not know this will happen. I did not expect it.” The fact that the suspect was shocked by the court’s decision suggests that even she had been kept in the dark over the secret deals, which could only be made at the highest diplomatic level. Too bad Jho Low didn’t hide any valuable assets in Vietnam that can be used by the Vietnamese government as bargaining chips.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and President Jokowi

It wasn’t a coincidence that the Siti Aisyah’s release comes just a month before Indonesia’s general election, to be held on 17 April, 2019. Her unexpected release is seen as a boost to President Joko Widodo, who is seeking re-election. Jokowi gets the credit for securing the release of Siti, the same way Mahathir gets the praises for the return of the Equanimity.


Arrived at Halim Perdana Kusuma Airport in Jakarta on a special aircraft managed by the Indonesian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Siti Aisyah was greeted by hundreds of local media personnel. The nationwide coverage of Siti’s release and return to home also saw her thanking President Jokowi and Cabinet members. It was a win-win deal for both Malaysian and Indonesian leaders.


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