Judge rules women will face full trial over Kim Jong Nam murder

The murder trial against two women accused of the brazen assassination of the North Korean leader's half-brother is to continue.

A judge ruled on Thursday the women must begin to enter their defence in the case, in a hearing which the pair's supporters had hoped would see them acquitted.

Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 29, are accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam's face in an airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur. The women have said they thought they were taking part in a prank for a TV show.

They are the only two suspects in custody and face the death penalty if convicted.

Siti Aisyah
Siti Aisyah

Judge Azmi Ariffin told Shah Alam High Court it can be inferred from evidence presented in court that there was a "well-planned conspiracy" between the two women and four North Korean suspects at large to kill Kim "systemically".

He said he "cannot rule out that this could be a political assassination", but noted there is no concrete evidence to support this.

He called for them to enter their defence after reading his ruling for more than two hours. The defence phase of the trial is expected to last months.

According to the case presented so far, the four men known to Aisyah and Huong by code names recruited and trained the two women to accost strangers in a similar fashion to the day they attacked Kim, and they provided the women with the banned chemical weapon that they smeared on his face.

Airport security footage shown in court captured the moment of the attack and prosecutors also said the camera images linked the women to the four male suspects. Shortly after Kim arrived at the airport, Huong was seen approaching him, clasping her hands on his face from behind and then fleeing. Another blurred figure was also seen running away from Kim and a police investigator testified that it was Aisyah.

Kim died within two hours of the attack.

Doan Thi Huong
Doan Thi Huong

Defence lawyers have said the prosecution failed to show the two women had any intention to kill - key to establishing they are guilty of murder.

But the judge said their intention to kill can be inferred from targeting Kim's eyes, where the nerve agent would penetrate faster. He said that evidence pointed to a "simultaneous act" by the women.

The judge also said their hurrying to separate bathrooms also established their intention to cause Kim's death.

"I have no slightest doubt that their desperate act of rushing to the toilets is to solely decontaminate the poison on their hands," Mr Azmi said. He said they seemed worried and tense before washing their hands, but relaxed afterwards.

Lawyers for the two women have said their clients were pawns in a political assassination with clear links to the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

The defence has argued the real culprits are the four North Korean suspects and have pointed to an embassy employee who helped arrange their travel as evidence of embassy involvement.

Malaysian officials have never officially accused North Korea and have made it clear they do not want the trial politicised.

PA

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