World

Kim Jong Nam murder: Alleged killers plead not guilty

Women's lawyers claim 4 unnamed persons in charge sheet the real suspects in Kim Jong Nam murder

SHAH ALAM Two women pleaded not guilty yesterday to murdering the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as prosecutors alleged the accused practised for the assassination before carrying it out.

The trial in Malaysia heard dramatic testimony from a doctor who described the agonising final moments of Mr Kim Jong Nam after he was attacked with a deadly nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur airport.

Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong were arrested days after the killing of Mr Kim as he waited to board a plane to Macau on Feb 13.

The women are accused of rubbing toxic VX, a chemical so deadly it is listed as a weapon of mass destruction, on his face.

Mr Kim died an agonising death about 20 minutes after the incident, which was caught on airport CCTV, as the VX rapidly shut down his central nervous system.

The defendants - who face death by hanging if convicted - claim they were duped into believing they were taking part in a prank for a reality TV show and their lawyers have pointed the finger at North Korean agents.

The murder sparked an angry row between Pyongyang, which has been accused of masterminding the killing, and Malaysia, historically one of North Korea's few allies.

The women arrived at the heavily guarded High Court in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, wearing bulletproof vests and handcuffs.

The murder charge was read to Siti, 25, and Doan, 29, in their native languages and interpreters indicated they were pleading not guilty.

PRACTISED

Opening the prosecution, Mr Muhamad Iskandar Ahmad said the women's actions showed their "intention to kill" and described how they had practised for the hit before carrying it out for real.

The charge sheet accuses the women of killing Mr Kim with four others, who are not named, still at large. Four North Korean suspects fled Malaysia on the day of the murder.

The prosecutor said that before the murder Siti and Doan had carried out "simulations" which were "overseen by the four who are still free".

The exercises "were a preparation by all of them to cause the death of the victim," he said.

Defence lawyers argued the charge was ambiguous due to the failure to identify the four other suspects.

The women's lawyers believe the four unnamed individuals are the main suspects in the murder. They argue that their clients, who were living precarious existences among Malaysia's army of migrant workers, are simply taking the rap.

Witness Nik Mohamad Adzrul Ariff, a doctor who was on duty at the airport clinic when Mr Kim was brought in, described how the victim's health deteriorated rapidly. "I saw this man clutching his head and his face was very red," he told the court. "His hands and legs stiffened, his eyes rolled upwards, he was drooling." - AFP

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