March 11, 2019 / 12:40 PM / 2 months ago

North Korean embassy defaced ahead of Kim Jong Nam trial

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - The North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur was defaced with graffiti early on Monday, just hours before the trial of two women accused of murdering Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was to resume, authorities said.

In a dramatic turn of events, an Indonesian woman, Siti Aisyah, 26, accused in the 2017 chemical poison murder of Kim Jong Nam was freed on Monday after the Malaysian court dropped the charge.

The court adjourned Vietnamese co-defendant Doan Thi Huong’s trial to Thursday pending a request by her lawyers to the attorney-general to have her charge similarly dropped.

Police said the outer wall of the North Korean embassy was painted with Korean script that read “Free Korea” and several other symbols that have yet to be deciphered.

The graffiti was believed to have been painted by four men wearing hats and face masks, according to police. A group called “Cheollima Civil Defense” claimed it was responsible.

In a statement posted on its website, the group appeared to have acted in support of the two women defendants.

“You may be lonely now, quietly longing for freedom. But thanks to your courage, we will meet one by one,” the group said in its statement.

The 2017 chemical poison murder of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia sparked a diplomatic meltdown between the two countries.

Some South Korean lawmakers said the North Korean regime had ordered the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, who had been critical of his family’s dynastic rule. Pyongyang has denied the accusation.

Malaysia expelled North Korea’s envoy for questioning the government’s impartiality in handing the murder investigation, and North Korea retaliated with a travel ban on all Malaysians in Pyongyang, trapping three diplomats and six family members.

The diplomats and their family members were eventually released after Malaysia agreed to hand over Kim Jong Nam’s remains and three North Korean nationals who were being investigated in relation to the murder.

Last year, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysia would reopen its embassy in Pyongyang, suggesting an end to the diplomatic row, but he did not give a timeline.

Reporting by Joseph Sipalan in Kuala Lumpur, Hyonhee Shin in Seoul; Editing by Nick Macfie

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