SHAH ALAM (AFP) - The trial of an Indonesian woman accused of assassinating the North Korean leader's half-brother was put on hold on Tuesday (Dec 18) due to a row over witness statements, the latest delay in the case.
Siti Aisyah from Indonesia and Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam have been on trial for over a year, accused of murdering Kim Jong Nam by smearing nerve agent VX on his face at Kuala Lumpur airport.
The brazen assassination in February last year shocked the world but the women have denied murder, saying they believed they were taking part in a prank and were tricked by North Korean agents.
The women, in their 20s, went on trial together in October 2017 but proceedings have moved slowly due to the large numbers of witnesses and the fact hearings are held infrequently.
The defence stage of Aisyah's trial had originally been due to begin in November but was delayed to January after her main lawyer fell ill.
And on Tuesday, proceedings in Aisyah's case were temporarily halted when the High Court refused to grant her lawyers access to some witness statements, and they decided to file an appeal.
Huong's trial is due to resume in March and the court will rule on Friday whether it will go ahead, or be put on hold with Aisyah's.
The prosecution stage of the trial, during which the women appeared for hearings together, wrapped up in August. The defence parts of their trials will be held separately.
Aisyah's lawyer Gooi Soon Seng said the witness statements were "essential" for the defence and he would appeal against the ruling - a process that could take months.
"Without (the statements) there would be a real miscarriage of justice. It would compromise our case," he told reporters at the court in Shah Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur.
The seven statements are from witnesses including people who drove Kim Jong Nam around in Malaysia and acquaintances of Aisyah. Prosecutors have refused to hand them over, arguing they should not be made public.
Under current laws, the women will be sentenced to death by hanging if convicted of murdering the estranged relative of the North's leader Kim Jong Un.
Malaysia's new government, which took power in May, has vowed to abolish capital punishment for all crimes, although Parliament still needs to vote on the change.