Malaysian authorities are expected to press murder charges Wednesday against a North Korean chemist and two women who were arrested following the death of the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, according to sources and a news report.
The female suspects, Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong, poisoned victim Kim Jong Nam by smearing a banned nerve agent on his face that caused his death at a Kuala Lumpur area airport on Feb. 13, police said last week.
“Yes, they will be charged in court on Wednesday,” a senior Malaysian official told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, on Monday on condition of anonymity.
“They will be charged under Section 302,” the source said, referring to a section of Malaysia’s criminal code that covers murder with intent.
The alleged assassins were trained to handle the VX nerve agent and instructed to wash the deadly substance off their hands immediately afterward, Police Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar said.
A North Korean man in Malaysian custody, Ri Jong Chol, holds a doctorate in chemistry and is one of eight North Koreans whom police have named as suspects in the death of Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-sibling, news reports said.
A remand order allowing police to hold the two women is due to expire Wednesday, but they and Chol are expected to face murder charges in a local court that day, the Sun Daily newspaper reported Monday.
“Sources familiar with the ongoing probe said – as the results of the post mortem have been obtained by investigators indicating a nerve agent called VX was used in killing the victim whose travel documents identified him as Kim Chol – it was highly likely the attorney general’s chambers will give police the go-ahead to charge the suspects with murder,” according to the newspaper.
Meanwhile in Seoul, a South Korean lawmaker on Monday cited a report from his country’s intelligence service that pointed to growing evidence of the North Korean government’s alleged involvement in the assassination of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2).
“Among eight suspects in this case, four are from the ministry of state security and two who actually took action are from the foreign ministry,” Lee Cheol-woo, one of a group of lawmakers briefed by South Korean intelligence, told reporters according to Reuters.
“That is why it is a case of terrorism led by the state, directly organized by the ministry of state security and the foreign ministry,” Lee said.
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian police have named a second secretary at Pyongyang’s embassy there as one of the eight North Korean suspects and have threatened to issue arrest warrants for him and for an employee of North Korea’s state-run airline, if the embassy did not turn them over for questioning by investigators.
Kim was in great pain and died within 15 to 20 minutes after being attacked with the VX nerve agent – a banned chemical classified by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction – Malaysian Health Minister S. Subramaniam told reporters on Sunday.
Kim was killed by a “very serious paralysis” brought on by exposure to the nerve agent, the minister said, according to Agence France-Presse.
Also on Sunday, a Malaysian Hazmat team swept the departure hall at KLIA2, where the attack occurred, for traces of VX.
Officials later in the day declared the area safe for travel, according to reports.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.