Malaysia interviewed, cleared 3 North Koreans before they left

Mar 31, 2017
North Korean officials arrive at the VIP entrance at Beijing airport ahead of an Air China flight to Pyongyang, China, March 31, 2017. Photo by Reuters

Malaysia’s police chief said Friday that investigators interviewed three North Koreans they had sought in the killing of the half brother of North Korea’s leader and cleared them of wrongdoing before allowing them to leave the country.

National police chief Khalid Abu Bakar told reporters that the three were cleared after investigators interviewed them at the North Korean Embassy. “We have obtained whatever we want from them,” he said.

The three men left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on Thursday on a flight that also carried the body of Kim Jong-nam. The men were seen at the Beijing airport on Friday, apparently on their way to Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital.

Investigators say Kim was poisoned with nerve agent in a Kuala Lumpur airport terminal and quickly died Feb 13. Two women — one Vietnamese and one Indonesian — are accused of smearing Kim’s face with poison and are in custody.

Four North Koreans who police say put the toxin on the women’s hands left Malaysia the day Kim died. The three other North Koreans police had sought, including a North Korean Embassy official and a North Korean airline worker, were believed to have been holed up in the embassy for weeks.

“They were seen in certain locations on CCTV. They have clarified and we are satisfied,” Khalid said. “We have allowed them to go.”

He said police are still seeking the four North Koreans who left Feb 13, who are believed to be in North Korea.

Malaysia allowed the three men to leave and gave up Kim’s body as nine Malaysians in North Korea — diplomats and their families — were allowed to return home after being blocked from leaving for weeks.

The deal largely ended a diplomatic battle that had also left more than 300 North Koreans stranded in Malaysia, but left questions about the status of Malaysia’s investigation into the death of Kim, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“Investigation into the murder is still ongoing,” Khalid said. “It is not stopped here and we are still hoping the North Korea authorities will hand over to us the four North Korea suspects we have named earlier on.” –AP