Frustrated Malaysian police release North Korean suspect
KUALA LUMPUR: The only North Korean arrested over the assassination of Kim Jong Nam was released yesterday, with frustrated Malaysian police saying they believed he was involved in the plot but lacked the evidence to prove it.
Mr Ri Jong Chol is among eight North Koreans suspected of involvement in the dramatic killing of the half-brother of the reclusive nation's leader Kim Jong Un. Mr Kim Jong Nam was poisoned with a banned nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb 13.
Malaysia's attorney general has announced there was insufficient evidence to charge 47-year-old Mr Ri and was to be deported yesterday.
As he was led out of a police station outside the capital under tight security and handed over to immigration authorities, police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said he regretted the release.
"We believe that Ri Jong Chol played a part in Kim Chol's murder, but unfortunately we lack evidence to charge him," he said, using the name given in the passport carried by Mr Kim Jong Nam.
"We are frustrated because of a lack of evidence," he said via text message from Saudi Arabia, where he is on a religious pilgrimage.
However, he denied political or diplomatic pressure had been a factor in the release, saying it was purely an investigative issue.
A senior police official, who asked not to be named, told AFP that Mr Ri had been handed over to immigration authorities in Putrajaya. "I do not know when he will be deported as they will need to sort out the travel documents," he said.
The vehicle carrying Mr Ri, who wore a bullet proof vest, was escorted by a six police-car convoy and motorcycle outriders.
Mr Ri's release came two days after two women - Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong - were charged with murdering Mr Kim Jong Nam. - AFP