A woman accused of using a chemical weapon to assassinate the estranged half brother of the leader of North Korea has been released in Malaysia after the charges against her were dropped.
Siti Aisyah, 27, from Indonesia, had been charged along with Doan Thi Huong, 30, from Vietnam over the murder of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in February 2017.
Four North Koreans alleged to have been part of the audacious plot are still at large.
The defence was expected to start its evidence on Monday but in a shock announcement at the beginning of proceedings it was confirmed that the prosecution had withdrawn its case against Ms Aisyah.
The judge ruled that Ms Aisyah could be dismissed but did not go as far as fully acquitting her.
In theory, it means she could be recharged in the future if new evidence is discovered.
Mr Kim’s face was smeared with VX, a banned nerve agent developed as a chemical weapon.
Prosecutors have claimed both women were trained assassins and knew they must wash their hands within 15 minutes to avoid being hurt by the nerve agent.
Deputy public prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin likened the “assassination” to something seen “in a James Bond movie”.
Defence lawyers have argued the women did not know they were poisoning Mr Kim but believed they were playing pranks for a reality TV show, having previously been paid for playing similar tricks at shopping malls and airports.
They claim they were unwitting pawns in a politically motivated murder and that the four North Koreans who escaped immediately after the attack are the real assassins.
CCTV from the airport shows a woman identified as Thi Huong running up behind Mr Kim and rubbing something on his face before walking away.
There was no clear footage showing Ms Aisyah touching him. The recordings show only a blurry image of someone the prosecution identified as the Indonesian defendant hurrying away from the scene.
Ms Aisyah’s defence team said she may return to Indonesia as early as this evening.
Thi Huong has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges against her and her case is continuing.
Once North Korea’s heir apparent, Kim Jong Nam was living in exile in Macau and had criticised his family’s dynastic rule.
The court heard that he was carrying a dozen vials of a potential antidote for VX in his sling bag on the day he was poisoned and six months earlier had told a friend he feared for his life.
The sensational murder unravelled once-close ties between Malaysia and North Korea.
Malaysia was forced to return Kim Jong Nam’s body and allow the return home of three North Korean men wanted for questioning and hiding in the Kuala Lumpur embassy, in exchange for the release of nine Malaysians stuck in Pyongyang.
North Korea has denied accusations by South Korean and US officials that Kim Jong Un’s regime was behind the killing.
(c) Sky News 2019: Kim Jong Nam killing: Woman freed after murder charge dropped