Archive for the ‘Malaysia’ category

Trial begins in assassination of DPRK leader’s half-brother

October 3, 2017

Trial begins in assassination of DPRK leader’s half-brother, en.people, October 2, 2017

(Were the North Korean suspects who were allowed to go home executed or given rewards? Kim Jong-un’s estranged half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, was seen as his rival for the position of Dear Leader. — DM) 

(Photo/CGTN)

The women claim they were duped into believing they were playing a harmless prank for a hidden-camera reality TV show. The women will face the death penalty if convicted.

Aisyah and Huong were arrested just days after the murder. They are the only suspects in custody in a killing that ROK’s intelligence agency alleged was part of a five-year plot by DPRK leader Kim Jong Un to kill his estranged half-brother.

Malaysian police has gone on record saying several DPRK nationals suspected of involvement in the crime left the country on the day of the attack while others were allowed to leave later in a diplomatic deal with Pyongyang.

DPRK has vehemently denied the allegations.

The trial is expected to shed light on the many unanswered questions surrounding the murder. For instance, how two ordinary women struggling to make a living as migrant workers in Malaysia allegedly became involved in this high-profile assassination; or how a lethal nerve agent was used in the attack in a crowded airport that killed its target without harming anyone else. 

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Two women suspects pleaded not guilty of murdering Kim Jong Nam, half-brother of DPRK leader Kim Jong Un, on Monday as trial began in the sensational case that shocked the world with its Cold War-style modus operandi and triggered a diplomatic crisis between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea and Malaysia.

Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 29, entered their pleas through interpreters at Shah Alam High Court, outside the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, nearly eight months after the brazen airport assassination.

Indonesian Siti Aisyah is escorted by police as she arrives at the Shah Alam High Court on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in this still image taken from a TV footage, October 2, 2017. /Reuters Photo

Prosecutor to use CCTV footage as evidence

The defendants are accused of smearing Kim Jong Nam’s face with the banned VX nerve agent on February 13 as he waited to board a plane to Macau at a crowded airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur, killing him within 20 minutes.

Prosecutor Muhamad Iskandar Ahmad read a statement giving details of the murder: “We will provide evidence that the dead victim was at (Kuala Lumpur International Airport) departure lounge when Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong approached the dead victim and swiped a poisoned liquid on the face and eyes of the victim. The evidence clearly showed that their action to swipe the poison known as VX caused the death of the victim.”

The chemical agent VX is so lethal that it is listed as a weapon of mass destruction.

The attack was caught on airport CCTV. The footage is likely to be used as evidence by the prosecutor.

The women claim they were duped into believing they were playing a harmless prank for a hidden-camera reality TV show. The women will face the death penalty if convicted.

Judge denies request for other suspects’ identity

Aisyah and Huong were arrested just days after the murder. They are the only suspects in custody in a killing that ROK’s intelligence agency alleged was part of a five-year plot by DPRK leader Kim Jong Un to kill his estranged half-brother.

Malaysian police has gone on record saying several DPRK nationals suspected of involvement in the crime left the country on the day of the attack while others were allowed to leave later in a diplomatic deal with Pyongyang.

The defendants’ lawyers on Monday requested the court to provide them the identities of four people described in the charge sheet as having a common intention to kill Kim Jong Nam. Aisyah’s lawyer Gooi Soon Seng told the court: “A fair trial must include the right to know. The charge must be clear, not ambiguous.”

However, the judge denied the defense’s request after mulling over it for a while.

Defense lawyers say the real culprits have left Malaysia and that the women’s innocence will be proven in court. “We are fairly confident that at the end of trial, they will probably be acquitted,” Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, a lawyer for Huong, was quoted as saying by AFP.

Prosecutors insisted the women will get a fair trial as they began laying out their case, which is expected to take over two months as they examine 30 to 40 witnesses. The defense is then likely to be called.

Earlier, Aisyah and Huong arrived at the heavily guarded Shah Alam High Court, handcuffed and wearing bulletproof vests. About 200 police officers were deployed to guard the court premises.

The defendants arrived in a convoy of police cars with their sirens blaring. The diminutive pair bowed their heads as they were led into court past waiting journalists.

Suspects were ‘tricked’ and ‘used’ 

Meanwhile, Aisyah’s father said his daughter “would not have done such a thing, if she was not used by someone,” according to a CNN report.

“We didn’t see this coming at all. I don’t think she would have been in all this at all, if it wasn’t because of other people using her, getting her wrapped up in all this,” Asria Nur Hasan said.

Huong’s step-mother had also expressed similar apprehensions earlier, speaking to BBC’s Vietnamese service.

“Huong is not educated. We feel she was tricked into being in the situation she’s in,” Vy Thi Nguyen, 54, was quoted by BBC Vietnamese as saying. “We hope the court will be fair to her,” she added.

As the trial continued, Indonesia’s Ambassador to Malaysia, Rusdi Kirana, told reporters that his country is standing by its citizen Aisyah. “We can’t comment on the suspect, but what we can do is… to support our citizen. Regarding the law in Malaysia, we have to respect and let the court process how it should be,” he said.

Kirana said Indonesian officials will be monitoring the trial, including specialists in the field of poison.

Diplomatic row amid unanswered questions

The murder sparked a heated row between DPRK and Malaysia, which had been one of Pyongyang’s few allies, amid global concerns over the country’s nuclear weapons program, with both countries firing each other’s ambassadors.

Tensions later eased after Malaysia agreed to return Kim’s body, in March, and the DPRK let go some Malaysians stranded in the country.

However, an Asian Cup football qualifier between Malaysia and DPRK was postponed amid the crisis, and delayed this week for the third time after Kuala Lumpur imposed a ban on travel to DPRK citing heightened global concerns over Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

Also, ROK has accused the DPRK of plotting the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, who was known to be a critic of his government and was living in exile overseas.

DPRK has vehemently denied the allegations.

The trial is expected to shed light on the many unanswered questions surrounding the murder. For instance, how two ordinary women struggling to make a living as migrant workers in Malaysia allegedly became involved in this high-profile assassination; or how a lethal nerve agent was used in the attack in a crowded airport that killed its target without harming anyone else.

Malaysia Kills a Talking Point

August 11, 2017

Malaysia Kills a Talking Point, Investigative Project on Terrorism, August 11, 2017

In trying to cast their faith as tolerant and accepting of others, many Muslims like to point to the Quran’s verse 2:256: “There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion,” it begins.

It’s a comforting thought. While dawa, a form of proselytizing, is a key element of the faith, the argument makes it sound as if there are no repercussions for those who do not accept the faith or who reject it.

But, in scripture and in practice, this simply is not true.

Verse 25:11, for example, warns: “But they have disbelieved the Hour (the Day of Judgment) and for those who disbelieve the Hour, We have prepared a flaming fire.” Verse 4:151 similarly, promises “the disbelievers a humiliating torment.”

Right now in Malaysia – often held up as an example of a moderate Muslim-majority nation – police are under instruction to “hunt down” non-believers through state-mandated re-education programs and “fix their faith” if they once were Muslims.

All this because of a photograph posted online Aug. 2 which showed a group of more than three dozen smiling young people who are part of the Atheist Republic, a support and social media outlet with more than 1 million followers worldwide. Founder Armin Navabi created the group while still living in Iran, one of 13 Muslim-majority countries that punishes apostasy with death.

The meeting in Kuala Lumpur “was such a blast,” the Facebook post said. “Atheists from all walks of life came to meet one another, some for the very first time…each sharing their stories and forming new friendships that hopefully will last a lifetime! We rock!”

They did harm to no one. But cabinet minister Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim learned of the gathering and saw a threat to Malaysia’s national well-being. He called for authorities to “hunt down” those present, noting that Malaysia’s constitution is silent about atheists. “This clearly shows that the group goes against the Constitution and basic rights,” he said.

While Malaysia is one of the countries that can carry out the death penalty for apostasy, no government official is using such terms. So far. Social media, however, is filled with death threats against the Malaysian atheists.

“Advise them and tell them that Islam is not to be played with,” Danizaynal Dani wrote. “If they refuse to repent we burn them alive. An apostate’s blood is halal for slaughter.”

“It is better to die from hanging for murder, than to die as an apostate,” wrote Irfan Samsuri.

Navabi also co-hosts a podcast with other ex-Muslims, called, “Secular Jihadists from the Middle East.” In an emotionally-charged special episode on the Malaysian threats Tuesday night, he said police had already visited at least one of the people in the photograph. He was surprised by the reaction. He was less surprised by the lack of attention Western news outlets and supposed liberal activists have given the situation.

“If this was happening to any other group, any other group, there would be an outcry right now,” he said. “If this was a group of Muslims being treated like this, if this was a group of Christians being treated like this, the whole world would be reacting to it right now.”

Navabi’s observation leads to the simple question: Why isn’t this attack on freedom gaining more attention? None of the national Islamist activist groups, which would organize protests and marches if the targets were Muslims, have said anything. The same groups have pushed the “no compulsion in religion” argument, though, so it might be difficult to acknowledge the rights of ex-Muslims in Malaysia without grappling with some uncomfortable realities.

Unfortunately, the same also can be said for a series of other cases in which Muslim-majority countries prosecute or see mob violence attack and kill people for thought crimes. One hears very little about these cases outside of the interest groups directly affected.

Saudi Arabia, for example, has jailed writer Raif Badawi for more than five years for the crime of writing about secularism. His sentence also includes 1,000 lashes, the first 50 of which nearly killed him. His wife described the scene that she later saw in an online video:

“But I saw clearly that he was striking Raif with all his might. Raif’s head was bowed. In very quick succession he took the blows all over the back of his body: he was lashed from shoulders to calves, while the men around him clapped and uttered pious phrases.”

In Bangladesh, a series of brutal machete attacks killed at least 11secular and atheist bloggers since 2013. One, Avijit Roy, was an American citizen. His wife was severely injured, but survived and continues to speak out about free expression.

Regardless of one’s views on religion, these Malaysian people’s plight – like Raif Badawi’s and like the slaughtered Bangladeshi writers – is about the right to free speech, free thought and peaceful assembly. These ideals are the foundation of a free society, or liberty.

It would be nice if more people—of any or no religion—called out these human rights abuses.