Kim Jong Nam murder

Both accused are scapegoats, say lawyers

Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong (left) and Indonesian national Siti Aisyah (right) being escorted by Malaysian police after a court appearance in Sepang yesterday. Lawyers for the two have complained that they had scant access to their clients.
Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong (left) and Indonesian national Siti Aisyah (right) being escorted by Malaysian police after a court appearance in Sepang yesterday. Lawyers for the two have complained that they had scant access to their clients.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

They say case was 'compromised' when masterminds were allowed to leave while 'pawns' remained

Lawyers for the two women accused of killing the estranged half-brother of North Korea's leader claimed in court yesterday that the masterminds of the crime are still at large.

"They (the women) were scapegoats and pawns to be used while the real culprits were (allowed) to go back," said lawyer Gooi Soon Seng, who said that the defence case was "compromised" after the departure of three North Korean suspects from Malaysia last month.

Mr Gooi's client, Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 28, have been charged with the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the elder brother of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un. They face the death penalty if convicted.

Last month, Malaysia and North Korea resolved their diplomatic spat by exchanging nine Malaysians stranded in Pyongyang for the body of Mr Kim and three North Korean suspects who were in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian police said they had recorded statements from the three North Koreans before they were allowed to leave the country.  

FALL GUYS

They were scapegoats and pawns to be used while the real culprits were (allowed) to go back.

MR GOOI SOON SENG, lawyer of Siti Aisyah, on how his client is merely a fall guy, while the masterminds are at large.

The police are still seeking four North Korean men who fled Malaysia on Feb 13, the same day Mr Kim was allegedly attacked and killed with the lethal VX nerve agent by the two women at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Lawyers for the two defendants also complained that in the last month, they had scant access to their clients and despite numerous official requests, little information on the case. The defence team is seeking police statements recorded from the three North Koreans, who were returned to Pyongyang on March 30; CCTV footage; data obtained from the suspects' seized cell phones; and other relevant documents to build their case.

Malaysia's police chief has rubbished the lawyers' statements, stating that no official application was received. "It is up to us, with the clearance from the Attorney-General, on what documents can be given and need not be given," said Mr Khalid Abu Bakar. "We cannot be producing evidence here now before the trial."

The defence lawyers say the situation is "unfair" to their clients.

"This is a handicap for the defence of Ms Doan," said her lawyer, Mr Hisyam Teh. Mr Gooi told the court that "justice must be seen to be done and the accused person should not be denied her fundamental right to a fair trial".

The case has been postponed to May 30, following the prosecution's request for more time to gather documents.

Both women were nabbed days after the incident. They were tracked down from airport CCTV footage that caught the duo ambushing Mr Kim and smearing a substance on his face. Mr Kim, who had been living in self-exile for over a decade, was waiting for his flight back to Macau.

His death has been widely attributed to the North Korean regime, though the reclusive government denies involvement. North Korea refuses to acknowledge the dead man as Mr Kim, referring to him as Kim Chol, as per the name stated in the diplomatic passport he was using. The hermit kingdom has also said Mr Kim's death was due to a "heart stroke", not poisoning.

 

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2017, with the headline 'Both accused are scapegoats, say lawyers '. Print Edition | Subscribe