LACK OF EV­I­DENCE FRUS­TRATES COPS

Po­lice have is­sued ar­rest war­rant for Air Ko­ryo em­ployee, seeks em­bassy of­fi­cial’s co­op­er­a­tion

New Straits Times - - News - AINA NASA KUALA LUMPUR news@nst.com.my

IN­SPEC­TOR-GEN­ERAL of Po­lice Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar yes­ter­day said po­lice be­lieved that Ri Jong-chol was in­volved in the mur­der of Kim Jong-nam.

How­ever, he said, po­lice had no choice but to re­lease Jong-chol, who was the only North Korean ar­rested over the as­sas­si­na­tion, due to a lack of ev­i­dence.

Khalid, who said he re­gret­ted the re­lease, said po­lice be­lieved that Jong-chol played a part in Jong-nam’s mur­der.

“Un­for­tu­nately we lack ev­i­dence to charge him.

“We are frus­trated be­cause of the lack of ev­i­dence,” he said in a text re­ply.

Jong-chol was among eight North Kore­ans sus­pected of in­volve­ment in killing Jong-nam, who is the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Khalid de­nied that po­lit­i­cal or di­plo­matic pres­sure had been a fac­tor in the re­lease.

He said Jong-chol was re­leased purely based on the out­come of in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Jong-chol had been in po­lice re­mand since Feb 18 af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tors dis­cov­ered that he had driven one of four North Korean men wanted in the mur­der.

He was ar­rested at his con­do­minium in Jalan Kuchai Lama here.

Jong-chol’s re­lease came two days af­ter two women — Doan Thi Huong, 28, from Viet­nam, and Siti Aisyah, 25, from In­done­sia — were sep­a­rately charged with mur­der­ing Jong-nam.

They face the death penalty if found guilty.

Seven other North Kore­ans are wanted in con­nec­tion with the killing, in­clud­ing a diplo­mat and an air­line em­ployee. They are be­lieved to be in Malaysia. Four are thought to have fled to Py­ongyang on the day of the mur­der.

Jong-nam was at­tacked as he waited to board a flight at klia2.

Closed-cir­cuit tele­vi­sion cam­era footage showed two women ap­proach­ing the heavy­set 45year-old and ap­par­ently swip­ing his face with a cloth. He later suf­fered a seizure and died less than 20 min­utes af­ter the attack.

Khalid said po­lice had is­sued a war­rant of ar­rest for an em­ployee of the North Korean air­line Air Ko­ryo to as­sist in the mur­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Khalid, in a What­sApp mes­sage to Ber­nama, said the war­rant was is­sued against Kim Uk-il, 37.

Khalid said po­lice also sent a re­quest through the For­eign Min­istry seek­ing the co­op­er­a­tion of Hyon Kwang-song, sec­ond sec­re­tary at the North Korean em­bassy, to as­sist in the probe.

He said the let­ter sent via Wisma Putra had been de­liv­ered to the em­bassy.

Khalid had pre­vi­ously said po­lice would ad­here to in­ter­na­tional pro­to­col to ob­tain in­for­ma­tion from Kwang-song, who has di­plo­matic im­mu­nity.

He also con­firmed that po­lice had stepped up se­cu­rity checks at bor­der check­points, in­clud­ing at jet­ties, air­ports and land routes.

He said this was to pre­vent sus­pects pos­si­bly linked to the mur­der or spies from other coun­tries from en­ter­ing or leav­ing Malaysia.

Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar

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