THE remains of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader who was assassinated in Malaysia in February, will be repatriated to his family in Macau.
Malaysia’s The Sun Daily reported the release of Jong Nam’s body by the Kuala Lumpur Hospital to be sent to his family by Monday, some 41 days after he was poisoned with the banned VX nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 on Feb 13. This is despite Pyongyang’s earlier claims on the body.
Journalists and cameramen – some of whom have been “camping” outside the hospital mortuary since the assassination to monitor developments – spotted a hearse escorted by police arriving at the morgue on Sunday afternoon. It left the hospital two hours later.
The body was taken to an unknown location where a “religious rite” was performed. It was unclear if the body was cremated or placed in a coffin.
The repatriation of the 45-year-old victim’s body is believed to have been arranged by the Malaysian Foreign Ministry, which has been in contact with Jong Nam’s family.
The removal of the body from the mortuary came after several Malaysian police officers entered the North Korean embassy to brief its officials.
Some reports said the policemen were present at the embassy to take statements from three North Korean suspects who were reportedly “hiding” in the building to avoid being questioned over Jong Nam’s death.
According to Free Malaysia Today, the four policemen consisted of an investigating officer, a senior officer from the Selangor criminal division as well as two officers from the prosecution unit.
North Korea insisted the deceased was one of its citizens named “Kim Chol” as per the name on the passport the man was carrying when he died. Officials from the regime have also asserted the man died of a heart attack and not of poisoning.
However, Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi later said authorities confirmed the identity of Jong Nam’s body based on a DNA sample taken from one of his children.
Malaysia’s investigation into the killing has sparked diplomatic tensions with North Korea. A standoff was triggered between Kuala Lumpur and Pyongyang after the latter prevented nine Malaysian embassy officials and their family members from leaving the reclusive state.
The two women accused of killing Jong Nam are currently facing murder charges in Malaysia and face the mandatory death penalty if convicted.
Malaysian authorities said eight North Koreans were suspected of involvement in the plot – one had been released from custody. Police are looking for three other North Koreans, including the diplomat Hyon Kwang-song.