Malaysians protest over nationals stranded in Pyongyang

Indo Asian News Service

Kuala Lumpur, March 10 (IANS) Malaysians on Friday staged a protest for a peaceful resolution of the ongoing diplomatic row with North Korea over the alleged murder of that country's leader's half-brother.

Nine Malaysian nationals, comprising three embassy staff and six family members, remain stranded in Pyongyang after the North Korean government banned all Malaysian citizens from leaving the country during the investigation into the death of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged older brother of Kim Jong-un, Efe news reported.

This decision came after North Korea's ambassador in Kuala Lumpur, Kang Chol, was expelled from Malaysia after he criticised the police investigation.

However, two Malaysian employees of the UN World Food Programme were permitted to leave and arrived in Beijing on Thursday, according to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Around seven members of the Pertubuhan Martabat Jalinan Muhibbah Malaysia NGO held a peaceful rally at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur on Friday under the watchful eye of around a dozen police officers, urging the two countries to repair ties.

They expressed their gratitude to Pyongyang for releasing the UN employees and called for the speedy return of the remaining nine Malaysians.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Muslims gathered at the National Mosque in the capital to pray for the safety of their fellow nationals in North Korea, following Najib's request on Thursday for all mosques nationwide to hold special prayers for the stranded citizens.

According to the investigation conducted by Malaysia, Kim Jong-nam died on February 13 after he was attacked at Kuala Lumpur airport by two women who sprayed nerve agent VX on his face.

So far, Malaysian authorities have arrested and charged two women, an Indonesian and a Vietnamese, over the murder.

They have also issued arrest warrants against four North Koreans - accused of planning the murder and for hiring the two women to carry out the attack - as well as three North Koreans who they say are hiding in the North's embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Pyongyang claims Kim Jong-nam's death was caused by a heart attack and has accused Kuala Lumpur of conspiring with the United States and South Korea.