Indonesian woman freed 2 years after killing of Kim Jong Nam
By EILEEN NG
Monday, March 11
SHAH ALAM, Malaysia (AP) — One of two women accused of killing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother by smearing VX nerve agent on his face was freed after two years of detention Monday when Malaysian prosecutors unexpectedly dropped the murder charge against her.
Indonesian Siti Aisyah and her Vietnamese co-defendant, Doan Thi Huong, have said they thought they were taking part in a prank for a TV show.
Prosecutors did not give any reason for the remarkable retreat in their case against Aisyah in the killing of Kim Jong Nam at a busy Kuala Lumpur airport terminal.
Indonesia’s government had lobbied repeatedly for her release. Vietnam has pushed less hard on behalf of Huong, and recently hosted leader Kim Jong Un for an official visit and a summit with President Donald Trump.
Aisyah cried and hugged Huong before leaving the courtroom and being ushered away in an Indonesian Embassy car. She told reporters that she had only learned Monday morning that she would be freed.
She flew back to Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, later Monday and thanked the president and other officials for their help.
“I feel happy, very happy that I cannot express in words,” she told reporters at Jakarta’s airport. “After this I just want to gather with my family.”
Huong, who remains on trial, was distraught.
“I am in shock. My mind is blank,” she told reporters after Aisyah left.
The two women had been the only suspects in custody after four North Korean suspects fled the country the morning of Feb. 13, 2017, when Kim Jong Nam was killed.
The trial is to resume Thursday, and prosecutors are expected to reply to a request by Huong’s lawyers for the government to withdraw the murder charge against her as well.
The High Court judge discharged Aisyah without an acquittal on Monday after prosecutors applied to drop the murder charge against her.
Prosecutor Iskandar Ahmad said that means Aisyah can be charged again if there is fresh evidence, but there are no such plans now.
Aisyah’s release comes just a month before Indonesia’s general election and is seen as a boost to President Joko Widodo, who is seeking re-election.
Aisyah, surrounded by government officials and a mob of reporters at Jakarta’s arport, struggled for words as journalists shouted questions. After a prompt from Indonesia’s law and human rights minister, she thanked the president and Cabinet ministers.
Indonesia’s government said its continued high-level lobbying had resulted in Aisyah’s release. Its foreign ministry said in a statement that she was “deceived and did not realize at all that she was being manipulated by North Korean intelligence.”
It said Aisyah, a migrant worker, never had any intention of killing Kim.
The ministry said that over the past two years, Aisyah’s plight was raised in “every bilateral Indonesia-Malaysia meeting,” including at the presidential level, the vice presidential level and in regular meetings of the foreign minister and other ministers with their Malaysian counterparts.
Huong’s lawyer, Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, said after Monday’s court session that Huong felt Aisyah’s discharge was unfair to her because the judge last year had found sufficient evidence to continue the murder trial against both of them.
“She is entitled to the same kind of consideration as Aisyah,” he said. “We are making representation to the attorney general for Doan to be taken equally … there must be justice.”
A High Court judge last August had found there was enough evidence to infer that Aisyah, Huong and the four missing North Koreans engaged in a “well-planned conspiracy” to kill Kim Jong Nam. The defense phase of the trial had been scheduled to start in January but was delayed until Monday.
Lawyers for the women have previously said that they were pawns in a political assassination with clear links to the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and that the prosecution failed to show the women had any intention to kill. Intent to kill is crucial to a murder charge under Malaysian law.
Malaysian officials have never officially accused North Korea and have made it clear they don’t want the trial politicized.
Kim was the eldest son in the current generation of North Korea’s ruling family. He had been living abroad for years but could have been seen as a threat to Kim Jong Un’s rule.
Associated Press writer Niniek Karmini in Jakarta, Indonesia, contributed to this report.
Can We Divest from Weapons Dealers?
by Kathy Kelly
Impoverished people living in numerous countries today would stand a far better chance of survival, and risk far less trauma, if weapon manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, and Raytheon stopped manufacturing and selling death-dealing products.
About three decades ago, I taught writing at one of Chicago’s alternative high schools. It’s easy to recall some of their stories—fast-paced, dramatic, sometimes tender. I would beg my students to three-hole-punch each essay or poem and leave it in a binder on our classroom shelf, anxious not to lose the documentation of their talents and ideas.
Some of the youngsters I taught told me they were members of gangs. Looking down from the window of my second-floor classroom, I sometimes wondered if I was watching them selling drugs in broad daylight as they embraced one another on the street below.
Tragically, in the two years that I taught at Prologue High School, three students were killed. Colleagues told me that they generally buried three students per year. They died, primarily, from gunshot wounds. I think they could have survived their teenage years if weapons and ammunition hadn’t been available.
Similarly, I believe impoverished populations of numerous countries at war today would stand a far better chance of survival, and risk far less trauma, if weapon manufacturers such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, and Raytheon, stopped manufacturing and selling death-dealing products. It would also help if the people living in countries that export deadly weapons were well-informed about the consequences these businesses bring.
Consider this: The 2018 U.S. Census Report tallies U.S. exports of bullets to other countries. Topping the list is $123 million-worth of bullets to Afghanistan—an eight-fold rise over the number of bullets sold in 2017 and far more than the number of bullets sold to any other country.
During a recent visit to Afghanistan, I heard many people voice intense fear of what would happen if civil war breaks out. It seems to me that those who manufacture bullets are doing all they can to hasten the likelihood and deadly outcome of an armed struggle.
But rather than help people here in the United States understand conditions in countries where the U.S. conducts airstrikes, President Donald Trump is hiding the facts.
On March 6, 2019, Trump revoked portions of a 2016 executive order imposed by President Barack Obama requiring annual reports on the number of strikes taken and an assessment of combatant and civilian deaths. Trump has removed the section of the mandate specifically covering civilian casualties caused by CIA airstrikes, and whether they were caused by drones or “manned” warplanes.
A U.S. State Department email message said the reporting requirements are “superfluous” because the Department of Defense already must file a full report of all civilian casualties caused by military strikes. However, the report required from the Pentagon doesn’t cover airstrikes conducted by the CIA.
And last year, the White House simply ignored the reporting requirement.
Democracy is based on information. You can’t have democracy if people have no information about crucial issues. Uninformed about military practices and foreign policy, U.S. citizens become disinterested.
I lived alongside civilians in Iraq during the 2003 “Shock and Awe” bombing of Baghdad. In the hospital emergency rooms I heard survivors asking, through screams and tears, why they were being attacked. Since that time, in multiple visits to Kabul, I have heard the same agonized question.
The majority of Afghanistan’s population consists of women and children. When civilians in that country die because of U.S. attacks—whether within or beyond “areas of active hostilities”; whether conducted by the CIA or the Department of Defense; whether using manned or unmanned warplanes—the attack is almost certain to cause overwhelming grief. Often the survivors feel rage and may want revenge. But many feel despair and find their only option is to flee.
Imagine a home in your neighborhood suddenly demolished by a secret attack; you have no idea why this family was targeted, or why women and children in this family were killed. If another such attack happened, wouldn’t you consider moving?
Reporting for The New York Times, Mujib Mashal recently interviewed a farmer from Afghanistan’s Helmand province displaced by fighting and now unable to feed his family. “About 13.5 million people are surviving on one meal or less a day,” Mashal writes, “and 54 percent of the population lives below the poverty line of a $1 a day.”
Last week, an international crisis sharply escalated in a “dogfight” between India and Pakistan, both nuclear-armed states. The crisis has been somewhat defused. Media reports quickly focused on the relative military strength of both countries—observing, for example, that the dilapidated state of India’s jet fighters could be a “win” for U.S. weapons manufacturers.
“It is hard to sell a front-line fighter to a country that isn’t threatened,” said an analyst with the Lexington Institute. “Boeing and Lockheed Martin both have a better chance of selling now because suddenly India feels threatened.”
A few weeks ago, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited heads of state in Pakistan and India. Photos showed warm embraces and respectful receptions.
The CEO of Lockheed Martin, Marillyn Hewson, also embraces the Saudi government. She serves on the boards of trustees of two Saudi technological universities, and presides over a company that has been awarded“a nine-figure down payment on a $15 billion missile-defense system for Saudi Arabia.” The Saudis will acquire new state-of-the-art weapons even as they continue bludgeoning civilians in Yemen during a war orchestrated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. And the Saudis will build military alliances with nuclear-armed India and Pakistan.
With both India and Pakistan possessing nuclear weapons, every effort should be made to stop the flow of weapons into the region. But major weapon making companies bluntly assert that the bottom line in the decision is their profit.
Attending funerals for young people in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, at the time one of the poorest in Chicago, I felt deep dismay over the profits that motivated gun runners who sold weapons to students, some of whom would be soon fatally wounded. In the ensuing decades, larger, more ambitious weapon peddlers have engendered and prolonged fighting between warlords, within and beyond the United States.
How different our world could be if efforts were instead directed toward education, health care, and community welfare.
Kathy Kelly, syndicated by PeaceVoice, co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
#MeToo has changed the media landscape, but in Australia there is still much to be done
March 7, 2019
Lecturer in Criminology, University of Melbourne
Lecturer in Criminology, University of Wollongong
PhD Candidate – University of Melbourne
Disclosure statement: The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University of Melbourne provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation AU.
Victoria State Government provides funding as a strategic partner of The Conversation AU.
University of Wollongong provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.
Emerging in October 2017 in response to allegations of sexual assault perpetrated by Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, #MeToo highlighted the potential for traditional and social media to work together to generate global interest in gender-based violence. Within 24 hours, survivors around the world had used the hashtag 12 million times.
Eighteen months later, #MeToo is showing few signs of slowing down. Stories continue to appear in world media about sexual harassment and assault. The accused are predominantly powerful men in the entertainment industry, with musician Ryan Adams providing a recent example.
What the Harvey Weinstein case tells us about sexual assault disclosure
More recently, we have seen the corporate world tapping into the potential of #MeToo to ask how men can do better to call out sexist attitudes and behaviours that condone violence against women. The one that caused the most debate was Gillette’s advertisement questioning whether this is the “best a man can be?”
The #MeToo movement has undoubtedly reverberated through our cultural and political landscape. It is hard to deny its impact.
What is less clear is whether it is changing how we discuss gender-based violence and gender equality, and whose experiences are able to be shared. This is especially so given the well-documented issues with media reporting on gender-based violence.
Mainstream media reporting on sexual violence
While sexual violence has received increased media attention in the wake of #MeToo, it is also important to interrogate how it is being talked about. Arguably, much of the #MeToo reporting reproduces problematic stereotypes and reinforces sexual violence as monstrous and removed from everyday life.
One analysis of journalists’ reporting on Harvey Weinstein in our forthcoming book on the #MeToo movement found that the media continued to reproduce stereotypes and problematic tropes of victim-blaming. They routinely ignore relevant reporting guidelines.
Media reporting on the divisive Aziz Ansari case has produced both problematic and heartening results.
Yes means yes: moving to a different model of consent for sexual interactions
Taking a look at Australian reporting on this case, it was clear some articles excuse pressure and coercion as simply “the reality of sex” for women. One article even stated that “relenting can often mean consenting”. This reproduces problematic understandings of sex and gender relations, in which men are naturally aggressive initiators of sex, and women the passive gatekeepers of sexual activity.
However, some articles provided more nuanced reporting that recognised “relenting is not consent” and that:
more commonplace circumstances of coercion … account for a decent proportion of people’s traumatic sexual experiences.
This kind of reporting helps to unpack the complexities of sexual violence. It highlights that there are also harms associated with more everyday “grey area” behaviours.
As journalist Jane Gilmore’s “Fixed It” series that rewrites media headlines demonstrates, there is still a serious issue with the language the media use to talk about sexual violence. However, some #MeToo reporting shows a promising start in shifting discourse around sexual violence, opening up space for nuance and diversity in survivors’ experiences.
Social media and survivors speaking out
The #MeToo movement has also been significant online, with millions of survivors sharing their experiences on social media. Indeed, simply writing “me too” has become a shortcut for referencing an experience of sexual harassment or assault for survivors without having to say what actually happened.
This collective disclosure is a powerful act and should not be dismissed. Disclosing online can act as a kind of informal justice.
Online disclosure also allows survivors to seek support and act in solidarity with each other. It can help survivors to recognise their own experiences and realise they are not alone.
Mass disclosure through #MeToo also demonstrates the “magnitude of the problem” of sexual violence.
However, it is difficult to know what, if anything, has changed in the absence of any systematic analysis of #MeToo social media activity in Australia. Emerging international research suggests some survivors joined in #MeToo to draw attention to the political and structural nature of sexual violence and to challenge a perceived silence around this violence.
LGBTQ+ survivors in this study indicated they spoke out to ensure the experiences of these communities were included in #MeToo and to shift how we talk about sexual violence.
This suggests that involvement in #MeToo goes beyond simply sharing stories. Some survivors are able to articulate and draw attention to the underlying causes of sexual violence.
Yet it is equally true that social media continue to be a site of harm for women and gender-diverse people. It is implicated in the perpetration of sexual violence and misogyny as much as it is also a space for survivors to “speak out” about their experiences.
It is unclear whether or how this potential for backlash and online violence might shape how survivors talk about their experiences online. But it certainly influences whether they choose to disclose online.
Australia’s notoriously strict defamation laws have also limited how survivors can talk about their experiences. For example, it has been difficult for Australian survivors to “name and shame” their perpetrators as part of #MeToo.
We also need to be wary of making overly positive interpretations of survivors’ speaking out online. While it can be positive, it is not necessarily progressive.
For instance, survivor speech (and responses to that speech) circulating on social media that “goes viral” or gets picked up by mainstream media can sometimes reinforce stereotypes of what “real” sexual violence is. This was evident in some public responses to the Aziz Ansari case.
In speaking out, survivors may also call for punitive, criminal justice responses that reinforce other systems of oppression and power.
Speaking out about experiences has long been a staple part of anti-rape activism. But after nearly four decades of mobilisation on the issue, it seems survivors are continually having to speak out. And it is often similar voices that are heard: usually those of white, middle-class, heterosexual, and cisgender women.
The #MeToo movement has faced critique for replicating these gendered and racial divisions, suggesting that the movement is limited in its potential to create space for all survivors to be seen and heard. As such, the ways sexual violence is discussed on social media continue to represent only a limited range of experiences.
Moving forward from #MeToo
The progress and outcomes of social movements are almost always uneven. In the case of #MeToo, while this was indeed a watershed moment, there is still much to be done.
In particular, it is clear that while #MeToo has generated some change in what types of sexual violence are being discussed in social and mainstream media, and how, these shifts have been patchy at best.
Better training for journalists and editors reporting on sexual violence is one avenue to pursue. Social media platforms must also take more responsibility for moderating online misogyny (and other forms of hate speech) that perpetuates myths and problematic attitudes about sexual violence.
The #MeToo movement demonstrated how widespread sexual violence is in our communities. This shocked and outraged many people. But the work of effectively responding to and addressing the causes of these experiences remains – and is the most challenging piece of this project.
The National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line – 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.