Lawyer for Vietnamese suspect in Kim Jong Nam murder calls for second autopsy

Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong (left), 28, is escorted with a heavy police presence after a court appearance at the magistrates' court in Sepang on March 1, 2017.
Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong (left), 28, is escorted with a heavy police presence after a court appearance at the magistrates' court in Sepang on March 1, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - The lawyer of a Vietnamese woman accused of murdering the half-brother of North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Nam, questioned Malaysia's ability to assess the nerve agent used in the killing and called on Monday (March 6) for a second autopsy.

Kim Jong Nam was poisoned with a lethal dose of VX, which is listed by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction, after he arrived to board a flight at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport last month.

Airport CCTV footage showed two women approaching the 45-year-old and apparently smearing his face with a cloth. Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, and Doan Thi Huong, 28, from Vietnam, have been charged with the murder and face the death penalty if found guilty.

Huong's lawyer on Monday suggested that Malaysia does not have the necessary expertise in the VX nerve agent, adding that he planned to request a second post-mortem.

"How is (it) that my client is accused of using VX nerve agent in her hand and applying it to the face of the deceased and not suffering any illness herself?" lawyer S. Selvam told AFP.

He also called for VX experts from Japan and Iraq to be involved in the findings, as well as "pathologists from North Korea".

While North Korea has not acknowledged the dead man's identity, it has repeatedly disparaged the murder investigation and has accused Malaysia of conniving with its enemies.

A diplomatic dispute erupted last month when Malaysian police rejected North Korean diplomats' demands to hand over Kim's body.

South Korea says North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had ordered the killing of his estranged half-brother, who had lived overseas for years but had voiced criticism of the regime, and engaged two outsiders to carry it out.

Traces of the poison, which is banned around the world, were found on Kim's face and eyes, police said.

One of the suspects was said to have exhibited signs of VX poisoning - vomiting and dizziness - while in custody, but police did not say which woman had fallen ill.

Four North Korean men wanted for the murder are still at large.

Police are also seeking the second secretary in Kuala Lumpur's North Korean embassy to assist in the murder, and have issued an arrest warrant for a North Korean airline employee.