The refusal of the Attorney General to withdraw the murder charge against Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong after doing exactly that without giving any reasons in the case of her Indonesian co-accused just two days ago, is mind boggling and raises questions about the powers of the AG.
Doan and Siti Aisyah were initially charged for the murder of Kim Jong-nam, the half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. This obviously implies that the AG believed he possessed sufficient evidence against the duo before charging them.
Furthermore, the trial judge made a finding that the prosecution had succeeded in establishing a prima facie case against both of them and called upon them to enter their defence against the said charge.
This means that the court takes the view that if Doan and Siti Aisyah were to remain silent in their defence, they would be convicted of the murder of Jong-nam on the evidence presented by the prosecution so far.
It was reported yesterday that the AG acceded to the request of Indonesia’s Law Minister, Yasonna Laoly to drop the charge against Siti Asiayah on the basis that North Korea was responsible for the murder.
If this was the case, why did the AG charge Siti Aisyah in the first place?
No doubt, the AG has the power to discontinue proceedings against Siti Aisyah the way he did but why did he not do the same in the case of Doan?
Both Doan and Siti Aisyah were charged together. Doan has a constitutional right to be treated the way Siti Aisyah was as she is entitled to equal protection of the law.
As the AG need not give reasons for his decision, Doan will never know why she was treated differently from Siti Aisyah. If she is convicted, she will always wonder if Siti Aisyah was equally culpable.
In cases like these, the discretion of the AG ought to be open to question, particularly when a person’s life is at stake.
I am of the view that the charge against Doan ought to have been dropped the same way it was dropped against Siti Aisyah if the AG was of the view that North Korea had a hand in Jong-nam’s murder.
Subjecting Doan to further prosecution and not her co-accused, particularly when a prima facie case has been found against both of them is, with respect, unprecedented and regrettable.