Vietnamese woman Doan Thi Huong is escorted by police as she leaves a Sepang court in Malaysia. (Reuters: Lai Seng Sin)
The two women charged with killing the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un have appeared in a Malaysian court wearing bulletproof vests, as one of their lawyers warned they feared “a trial by ambush” due to police not sharing evidence.
- The women say they thought they were taking part in a prank for a reality TV show
- Defence lawyers say they were not allowed to cross-examine witnesses, or access certain evidence
- Hearing has been deferred to May 30
Indonesian Siti Aishah, 25, and Doan Thi Huong, 28, from Vietnam, face the death penalty if convicted of murdering Kim Jong-nam at Kuala Lumpur International airport on February 13.
The two women allegedly smeared his face with the toxic VX nerve agent, a chemical described by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction.
Indonesian woman Siti Aisyah is charged with the murder of Kim Jong-nam. (Reuters: Lai Seng Sin)
Aishah and Huong have told diplomats from their countries that they had believed they were carrying out a prank for a reality television show, and not a murder.
US and South Korean officials say the murder was orchestrated by Kim Jong-un.
Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, had spoken out publicly against his family’s dynastic control of the isolated, nuclear-armed nation.
Lawyers for Aishah and Huong told a Malaysian magistrates court that police had not responded to requests to provide evidence including CCTV recordings and statements from three North Korean suspects allowed to leave the country.
The three North Koreans were allowed to return to Pyongyang late last month, along with the body of Kim Jong-nam, as part of a swap deal with North Korea, which had banned nine Malaysians from leaving the country in a diplomatic spat.
“We’ve lost an opportunity to cross-examine them … There should be no trial by ambush,” Aishah’s lawyer Gooi Soon Seng told reporters outside the courthouse.
Mr Gooi also said one of the three suspects who was allowed to leave Malaysia, Ri Jong-chol, also known as James, was a key witness and his return to Pyongyang had “compromised” the defence.
North Korean suspect Ri Jong Chol leaves a Sepang police station to be deported from Malaysia. (Kyodo via Reuters)
Hisyam Teh, Huong’s lawyer, requested police to furnish evidence such as photos and communications from the two phones seized from her.
Malaysia’s inspector-general of police, Khalid Abu Bakar, denied that police had “compromised” the case or refused to cooperate with the defence, saying some evidence “can only be provided during the trial”.
“We can’t be producing all evidence here now,” Mr Khalid said.
Four other North Koreans have also been identified by Malaysian police as suspects. They are believed to have left Kuala Lumpur for Pyongyang on the day of the killing.
The court was set to hear the prosecutors’ request that the two women be tried jointly in a higher court, but the hearing was deferred to May 30 after the prosecution requested more time to collect the required documents.