Kim Jong Nam murder trial

Both suspects to plead not guilty

Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong (left) being escorted after a court appearance in March. Her lawyer said she has a good defence when her trial opens on Monday, and that there is evidence to support it.
Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong (left) being escorted after a court appearance in March. Her lawyer said she has a good defence when her trial opens on Monday, and that there is evidence to support it.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

High-profile trial involving death of half brother of N. Korea's leader to begin Monday

KUALA LUMPUR • Two women accused of killing the estranged half-brother of North Korea's leader at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport are expected to plead not guilty when their trial begins at a Malaysian court on Monday.

Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, and Doan Thi Huong, 28, from Vietnam, are charged with murdering Mr Kim Jong Nam at the airport on Feb 13 by smearing his face with VX, a chemical the United Nations describes as a weapon of mass destruction.

The pair, however, have told their lawyers they did not know they were participating in a deadly attack and believed they were carrying out a prank for a reality TV show. They face the death penalty if convicted.

"They (the women) will maintain their innocence," Huong's lawyer Hisyam Teh told Reuters.

Monday's much-anticipated trial is expected to run until Nov 30 at the Shah Alam High Court.

Lead prosecutor Muhamad Iskandar Ahmad said between 30 and 40 witnesses, including 10 experts, would be called to testify. The prosecution is expected to call expert witnesses early on, Mr Hisyam said. He declined to comment on the defence's strategy, but said Huong was in good hands.

"She (Huong) has a good defence and we have the evidence to support it," he said, without elaborating.

South Korean and US officials have said that Mr Kim Jong Un's regime was behind the murder.

Mr Kim Jong Nam, who was living in exile in Macau, had criticised his family's dynastic rule of North Korea, and his brother had issued a standing order for his execution, according to some South Korean lawmakers.

Four other people, who have not been apprehended or named, have been charged along with Siti Aisyah and Huong. Four North Koreans, whom police named as suspects in the case, left Kuala Lumpur for Pyongyang on the day of the killing.

An Interpol red notice has been issued for the four, who were caught on airport CCTV cameras observing the murder, police said.

Mr Naran Singh, who is also on Huong's defence team, has asked prosecutors to release the names of the four suspects charged together with the women.

Siti Aisyah's lawyer Gooi Soon Seng had previously said the presence of other suspects would change the case completely.

Ties between Malaysia and North Korea have been frayed as a result of the case. Malaysia on Thursday banned its citizens from travelling to North Korea, citing security concerns from Pyongyang's nuclear tests. The travel ban follows a visit earlier this month to Washington by Prime Minister Najib Razak, who told US President Donald Trump that Malaysia has stopped doing business with North Korea, in line with UN sanctions.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2017, with the headline 'Both suspects to plead not guilty'. Print Edition | Subscribe