KUALA LUMPUR — March 13, 2019: While it was indeed lawful, several lawyers have argued that Malaysia’s decision to not prosecute an Indonesian woman accused of killing Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was contentious.
It was so, said the lawyers, in the sense that Attorney-General Tommy Thomas had said that the dismissal of Siti Aisyah’s murder charges on Monday, was due to a request by the Indonesian government.
“What did we have to give in return? This is a much publicised trial. Should we not let the judge determine the guilt? Would this not impact the case? This cannot be our rule of law. Why are we doing this?” asked Lukman Sheriff Alias of Zulrafique and Partners.
Siti Aisyah had been accused, alongside Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong of killing Jong Nam by smearing a toxic nerve agent on the latter’s face at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb 13, 2017.
Another lawyer, Zaki Azmi argued that Thomas’ decision had made a mockery of Malaysia’s legal system given the fact that the trial has already established a prima facie case, which was the reason the court did not give Siti Aisyah a full acquittal.
“The court is being made a medium for a test case. Charge first and see how politics goes. The court is not being made free from politics. What just happened showed that international affairs prevail over our legal system,” he said.
Mohd Khairul Azam Abdul Aziz also echoed similar view, adding that Thomas’ decision to entertain the Indonesian government’s request sets a bad precedence in which the world now knows that Malaysia is willing to bow to external pressure.
“And now even the Vietnamese government is making the same request. Plus, this will embolden foreigners, especially those from the world’s super powers, to have little regard of our laws,” said the lawyer.
Even more baffling was when Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad yesterday denied having any knowledge of Thomas’ correspondence with the Indonesian government.
“For him (Thomas) to succumb to what is seen as the dictates of a foreign country is worrying. Although prosecutorial is his jurisdiction, but judiciary is not. So for him to walk around making our courts look toothless is a worrying trend. More so when the PM isn’t consulted on government-to-government matters,” said lawyer Fatihah Jamhari.
Although Article 145 of the Federal Constitution (FC) gives Thomas an absolute prosecutorial powers, constitutional lawyer Tan Sri Dr Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman contended that in this case, Thomas should provide a proper explanation.
“The AG has the ultimate prosecutorial powers but there should be an explanation for such a withdrawal so as to sustain public confidence,” said Abdul Aziz, who was involved in drafting amendments to the FC and the Sedition Act following the May 13 riots in 1969.