Malaysia court rules Kim Jong Nam assassination trial can proceed

Frederick Owens
August 18, 2018

The High Court earlier ordered Doan and Indonesian Siti Aisyah to enter their defence on charges of murdering North Korean Kim Jong Nam on Feb 13 previous year.

(AP Photo/Jeffrey Ong) Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, left, is escorted by police as she arrives at court for allegedly killing Kim Jong Nam, the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's half-brother.

The two young Southeast Asian women are the only suspects in custody and face the death penalty if convicted. Aisyah, who will be the first to take the stand when the trial resumes November 1, later cried and was consoled by her lawyers and Indonesian officials.

Huong's lawyers also said they did not expect the ruling. The women have said they thought they were taking part in a prank for a hidden-camera show. "The court wants to hear their version", he said.

The women, who are set to testify during the defense stage of the trial, looked shocked and tearful as the ruling was handed down.

The judge said it was plausible that Doan may have not known that she had VX on her hands, but said the fact that she rushed to the bathroom after being caught on camera smearing Kim Jong Nam's face was "very odd".

The estranged relative of Kim Jong-un died in a matter of minutes.

He added, "I cannot rule out that this could be a political assassination. The four North Korean suspects fled the country the same morning Kim was killed.

But describing the murder as like something out of a James Bond movie, prosecutors argued the pair were well-trained assassins who knew exactly what they were doing.

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The real culprits, the defence argues, are the four North Korean suspects. Prosecutors have pointed to security camera footage which showed Doan rushing to the bathroom after clasping Kim Jong Nam's face as an indication that she was aware she was in possession of a unsafe substance.

After reading out the findings and summary of the case, Shah Alam High Court judge Azmi Ariffin said the evidence was credible enough to pursue a prima facie case. The same lawyers say the prosecution is desperate to secure any sort of conviction in the high-profile case, one that has garnered intense worldwide attention.

The prosecution made closing arguments in June at a court on the outskirts of the Malaysian capital, based on testimony from 34 witnesses.

Pyongyang hasn't cooperated with the investigation and has ignored Interpol notices to detain the four accused suspects. North Korea hit back, expelling Malaysia's envoy.

Malaysia cancelled a visa-free travel deal with North Korea and deported North Korea's ambassador.

Malaysia arrested North Korean citizen Ri Jong Chol in connection with the murder.

But the trial of Kim's alleged murderers has taken place against the backdrop of rapprochement between Pyongyang and Washington and a charm offensive by Kim Jong Un, who has embraced the role of a globe-trotting statesman.

"I am ready to meet you at an early date to discuss urgent issues of bilateral relations and important matters of the region", Mr Putin said in a message carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency yesterday. "I am convinced that we will continue to develop reciprocal cooperation including the realization of the tripartite project involving Russian Federation, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea through joint efforts".

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