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Kuala Lumpur: Police escort Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam, who is on trial for the killing of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, out of the Shah Alam High Court.—Reuters
Kuala Lumpur: Police escort Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam, who is on trial for the killing of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, out of the Shah Alam High Court.—Reuters

SHAH ALAM: The murder trial of two women accused of assassinating the half-brother of North Korea’s leader can proceed, a Malaysian court ruled on Thursday, in a blow to their families who insist the pair were tricked into carrying out the dramatic hit.

After hearing the prosecution case, the judge said there was sufficient evidence to support a murder charge against Siti Aisyah from Indonesia and Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam, accused of murdering Kim Jong Nam with nerve agent VX at Kuala Lumpur airport.

Judge Azmi Ariffin said the evidence presented in court since the trial started in October pointed to a “well-planned conspiracy” with a group of North Korean suspects who are still at large.

“I must therefore call upon (the suspects) to enter their defence on their respective charges,” he said at the Shah Alam High Court outside Kuala Lumpur.

The women, who are set to testify during the defence stage of the trial, looked shocked and tearful as the ruling was handed down. The judge could have chosen to acquit the women if he thought the evidence was insufficient.

Their families maintain the pair were fooled into carrying out the Cold War-style killing, and had been hopeful they would be acquitted, although state prosecutors insisted they had a strong case.

“She knows nothing, she was fooled. The case (against her) was made up,” Aisyah’s father, Asria, said from the family’s village on Indonesia’s Java island.

Her mother Benah added: “This is unfair. I wanted her to be released today but if the court refuses what can I do? I can only pray for the final verdict.” The trial is set to resume in November and go on for several months.

Aisyah, 26, will be the first witness to take the stand when proceedings restart.

The women are accused of killing Kim Jong Nam — once seen as an heir to the North Korean leadership and a rival to current leader Kim Jong Un — by smearing toxic VX on his face in February last year as he waited to board a flight to Macau.

The pair, who could face death by hanging if found guilty, claim they fell victim to an elaborate plot hatched by North Korean agents and believed they were taking part in a prank for a reality TV show.

South Korea has accused the North of ordering the hit, although Pyonyang denies the accusation.

But prosecutors, who likened the murder to the plot of a “James Bond” movie, argued the pair were well-trained assassins who knew exactly what they were doing.

Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2018