SHAH ALAM, Malaysia — Two Southeast Asian women on trial for the brazen assassination of the North Korean leader’s half brother were told to begin their defense Thursday, extending the trial for several more months.
Indonesia’s Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnam’s Doan Thi Huong, 29, are accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam’s face in an airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 13, 2017. The women have said they thought they were taking part in a prank for a hidden-camera show.
High Court Judge Azmi Ariffin said 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 was no concrete evidence to support this.
The judge the prosecution during the six-month trial so far had laid out enough evidence of the women’s guilt for the case against them to proceed.
“I therefore call upon them to enter their defense,” the judge said after reading his ruling for more than two hours.
The two young Southeast Asian women are the only suspects in custody and face the death penalty if convicted. The four North Korean suspects fled the country the same morning Kim was killed.
According to the case presented so far, the four men known to Aisyah and Huong only by code names recruited and trained the two women to accost strangers in 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.
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.
They say the prosecution failed to show the two women had any intention to kill – key to establishing the women are guilty of murder.
The real culprits, the defense argues, are the four North Korean suspects.
Kim, the eldest son in the family that has ruled North Korea since its founding, had been living abroad for years after falling out of favor. It is thought he could have been seen as a threat to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s rule.
Malaysian officials have never officially accused North Korea and have made it clear they don’t want the trial politicized.
Story: Eileen Ng