KUALA LUMPUR: The Inspector-General of Police has refuted Ri Jong-chol’s (pic) allegation that authorities threatened to kill his family unless he confessed to the assassination of Kim Jong-nam.
Labelling this as nonsense, Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said Jong-chol would not have been detained if he was not a person of interest in the murder investigation.
“He was treated the same as any other suspect in the case,” he told The Star yesterday.
Khalid also rubbished Jong-chol’s claim that the Malaysian police investigation was a conspiracy against North Korea and a “plot to tarnish his country’s honour”.
“We followed strict standard operating procedure in a murder investigation. The suspect was treated well,” stressed the country’s top cop.
Malaysian authorities insisted that Jong-nam – the half brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un – was killed by the VX nerve agent, which was smeared on his face by two female assassins at KLIA2 on Feb 13.
However, Pyongyang, led by its North Korean Ambassador Kang Chol, persisted with its allegations that Malaysia was “colluding” with others in the murder.
A high-level delegation, which arrived from Pyongyang, also rejected an autopsy finding that its citizen “Kim Chol” – the name that Jong-nam travelled by – was poisoned and had instead died of a heart ailment without giving any proof.
Police had detained Jong-chol on Feb 17, but released and deported him on Friday due to a lack of evidence.
An arrest warrant had been issued for Air Koryo employee, Kim Uk-il, 37, to help in the investigation while a letter requesting the cooperation of North Korean Embassy’s second secretary Hyon Kwan-song, had also been delivered through Wisma Putra.
Police are also looking for North Korean Ri Ji-u, 30, also known as James, while another four North Korean men have fled back to Pyongyang.
In Beijing, AP reported Jong-chol as saying that he was not at the airport the day Jong-nam was killed, but that the police had accused him of being a mastermind and presented him with “fake evidence”.
He alleged that they had shown him a picture of his wife and two children, who were staying with him in Kuala Lumpur, and threatened to kill them.
“These men kept telling me to admit to the crime and if not, my whole family will be killed and ‘you, too, won’t be safe. If you accept everything, you can live a good life in Malaysia’.
“This was when I realised that it was a trap – they were plotting to tarnish my country’s reputation,” said the 47-year-old chemist.
Jong-chol, who has been blacklisted from re-entering Malaysia, was speaking to reporters from the North Korean Embassy in Beijing yesterday on his way to Pyongyang.
Experts say that VX, an oily substance, was almost certainly produced in a sophisticated state weapons laboratory and North Korea is widely believed to possess large quantities of chemical weapons, including VX.
On Wednesday, Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong and Indonesian Siti Aisyah were charged with Jong-nam’s murder.