Police in Malaysia have released a North Korean national who had been detained in connection with the murder of the North Korean leader’s exiled half-brother in Kuala Lumpur, and handed him over to immigration officials for deportation.
Ri Jong-chol was released on Friday, according to police chief Khalid Abu Bakar, who confirmed they had found no evidence to charge him. Ri, 46, would be deported though because he did not have any valid travel documents, Khalid said.
Malaysian police arrested Ri back on February 17, four days after Kim Jon-nam — the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un — was murdered.
Jong-nam was attacked by two female assailants as he was walking through the departure hall at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. He died en route to hospital.
His assassination, which according to Malaysia was conducted with a banned toxic chemical, has sparked a diplomatic row between Kuala Lumpur and Pyongyang.
North Korean officials have demanded that Kim’s body be handed over and no autopsy be conducted on his body. Malaysia refused to turn the body over and did an autopsy anyway. Pyongyang later accused Malaysia of being in cahoots with the North’s long-time adversary South Korea.
On Thursday, Malaysia canceled visa-free entry for North Koreans. Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the decision had been taken for “national security reasons.”