An Indonesian woman arrested over the assassination of the North Korean leader’s half-brother was “duped” into believing that she was taking part in a TV prank show, officials said on Friday (Feb 17).
Siti Aisyah is among three people detained over the Cold War-style killing of Kim Jong Nam in a Malaysian airport on Monday that South Korea says was carried out by female agents armed with poison working for Pyongyang.
Malaysian police say that Kim Jong-Nam, the estranged elder brother of Kim Jong-Un, was preparing to board a plane to Macau when he was jumped by two women who squirted some kind of liquid in his face.
But Indonesian Police Chief Tito Karnavian said that Aisyah, 25, was tricked into thinking she was simply taking part in pranks for a TV show like Just For Laughs, a popular hidden camera series.
“Probably she was just used – she did not realise it was an assassination attempt,” he was cited as saying in local media.
He said Aisyah was persuaded to carry out similar pranks – spraying a substance into someone’s eyes – with another woman on three or four previous occasions in exchange for money.
But on the final occasion, it involved an attack on Kim Jong-Nam with “hazardous materials”, he said.
Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said that she “was duped to believe she was playing a game”, which he described as “a reality show” where people use “hidden or remote cameras”.
“If she really was an agent I believe she would not have been found,” he added.
Police arrested Aisyah after detaining her 26-year-old Malaysian boyfriend, and a 28-year-old woman carrying a Vietnamese passport.
Earlier on Friday, the Indonesian woman’s family and former neighbours in Jakarta expressed disbelief that she could be linked to the dramatic murder.
In the Jakarta neighbourhood of Tambora, where Aisyah used to live with her then husband, her former father-in-law Tija Liang Kiong, 56, said he was “shocked” at the news.
“There’s no way such a nice person would do that. I could not believe it because she was a good person,” he said.
“She was kind – if she was not kind I would not marry her off to my son.”
She married the son after meeting him while working for Kiong’s business and they had a baby then went to Malaysia to find work.
They got a divorce in 2012 but the child they had still lives with his family and Aisyah last visited her son on Jan 28, Kiong said. Indonesian immigration authorities said she flew to Malaysia on Feb 2.
One of her former neighbours, 25-year-old Nihayah, also expressed surprise at the news.
“I was very shocked because she was very normal, I could not believe it at all,” the neighbour, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, told AFP.
“The family was nice and friendly, but she (Siti) was quiet. She only answered when asked. She was quiet and polite.”