KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia will begin on Oct 2 the trial of two women accused of the dramatic killing of the estranged half-brother of North Korea's leader, the High Court said yesterday.
Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 28, are charged with murdering Mr Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb 13 by smearing his face with VX, a chemical the United Nations describes as a weapon of mass destruction.
Appearing at the Shah Alam High Court in Selangor yesterday, both women were handcuffed and wearing bullet-proof vests over Malay traditional dress, consisting of a floor-length skirt and a blouse.
"We will start in October," said Judge Azmi Ariffin. "The hearing has been fixed for the second."
The cases will be tried jointly, with pleas taken at the first hearing, he added.
If convicted, the women could face the death penalty.
Huong smiled during the hearing, but Siti Aisyah was in tears afterwards, with her lawyers seen trying to calm her.
Defence lawyers have warned previously that they feared "trial by ambush", with police not sharing evidence.
Prosecutor Muhamad Iskandar Ahmad said that the prosecution has given a further 33 documents and closed-circuit television (CCTV) recordings to the defence, and will call between 30 and 40 witnesses, depending on the progress of the trial.
"Having seen the CCTV recordings, I hope the judge will have a better understanding of the situation," said Siti Aisyah's lawyer Gooi Soon Seng, adding that he had asked for a visit to the crime scene during the trial.
Mr Kim was the eldest son of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. His half-brother Kim Jong Un became North Korea's leader after their father died in 2011.
Officials from the United States and South Korea say the North Korean regime was behind the murder of Mr Kim, who lived in exile in Macau and had criticised his family's dynastic rule of North Korea.
Pyongyang has refused to accept that the dead man was Mr Kim Jong Un's half-brother, and has suggested that the man died of a heart attack.
Siti Aisyah and Huong have told diplomats from their countries that they believed they were participating in a reality television show prank when they assaulted Mr Kim Jong Nam.
The incident sent tensions soaring between North Korea and Malaysia, with both countries expelling each other's ambassadors and barring citizens from returning to their respective countries.
Tensions eased when Kuala Lumpur agreed to return Mr Kim Jong Nam's body to Pyongyang, accompanied by three men initially named by the Malaysian police as murder suspects. In return, nine Malaysians who had been stranded in Pyongyang were allowed to leave for Malaysia.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE