SEPANG - A defence lawyer in the high-profile case of North Korean citizen Kim Jong Nam warned of "trial by ambush" on Thursday (April 13), saying Malaysian police failed to share evidence with the defence team of two foreign women charged with murder.
Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong and Indonesian Siti Aisyah - both clad in bullet-proof vests - appeared at the Sepa ng court separately on Thursday morning under tight security. Police officers and masked special forces armed with assault rifles were deployed to secure the court compound.
Their lawyers lodged complaints over inadequate access to the defendants and police's failure to pass them materials relevant for the defence case.
"Valuable time was lost by the defence in preparing its case," Siti's lawyer Gooi Soon Seng told the court. He later told reporters that the two women were "scapegoats and pawns to be used while the perpetrators have gone back".
"The accused person should not be denied her fundamental right to a fair trial...Neither side may seek unfair advantage by concealing weapons behind its back. There should be no trial by ambush," Mr Gooi said.
Doan's lawyer Hisyam Teh said crucial information was stored in her two phones which were seized when she was arrested and he wanted access to that as part of the defence case.
Mr Gooi also said that North Korean James Ri Ji U is a pivotal part of Siti's case but his return to North Korea has made it difficult for the defence to make their case. He requested authorities to provide CCTV footage and statements of the North Korean suspects who were questioned but later released under a swop deal between Malaysia and North Korea.
However public prosecutor Iskandar Ahmad said they're not obliged to provide the statements. He added that they needed an additional one and a half months to complete the necessary documentation.
The court set May 30 for the third re-mention of the case.
On Thursday, Siti was clad in the same red shirt she wore a month ago during her first court appearance. She shed tears as a translator interpreted the issues raised by her lawyer.
Doan, whose government had engaged new lawyers, showed up in a bright blue shirt. Though she was red faced and her hair was dishevelled, Doan smiled and waved to embassy staff as she left the courtroom.
The two women are accused of killing Mr Kim by wiping the nerve agent VX on his face at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) on Feb 13. The poison is classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations.
Mr Kim, who was estranged from his half-brother and lived in self exile for over a decade, was believed to have been killed under the orders of the North Korean leader. But Pyongyang has denied involvement and refused to acknowledge that the deceased is Mr Kim.
It insists that the dead man is a North Korean citizen named Kim Chol travelling on a diplomatic passport. It also claims the cause of death was a “heart stroke” and accuses Malaysia of subverting investigations as part of a conspiracy against it, a charge that Kuala Lumpur has dismissed.
The killing led to a diplomatic spat between the two countries that resulted in their ambassadors being expelled, and reciprocal travel bans barring Malaysians from leaving North Korea and vice versa.
Both countries eventually reached a swop deal to end the stand-off. Nine Malaysians stranded in North Korea returned home on March 31, while the body of Mr Kim and three North Koreans suspected of being involved in his murder were returned to the reclusive state.