A lawyer for one of two women accused of assassinating the half-brother of North Korea’s dictator on Friday questioned a chemist’s report about a banned nerve agent allegedly used in the bizarre attack at a Malaysian airport in February.
Attorney Gooi Soon Seng said the defense would seek expert opinion to establish whether the VX agent or another poisonous chemical was used in the killing. During a court hearing Friday in Shah Alam, near Kuala Lumpur, the prosecution turned over 33 documents to the defense, including post-mortem and toxicology reports.
The lawyer representing Indonesian suspect Siti Aisyah spoke to reporters after his client appeared in court. A judge set Oct. 2 as the opening date for the joint murder trial of Siti and Vietnamese suspect Doan Thi Hoang.
“VX is supposed to be a very potent agent and even 0.1 milliliters is enough to kill a person, but we can say there have been no side effects on the two women,” he said after both women appeared in court on Friday.
They have been charged with murder for smearing the face of victim Kim Jong Nam with the deadly VX agent at a crowded Kuala Lumpur area airport terminal on Feb.13. While the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un died about 15 minutes later, the two women did not report any injuries from handling the chemical, Malaysian police said.
VX, short for “venomous agent X,” is an extremely toxic synthetic chemical compound that causes death with exposure to low quantities by inhalation or absorption through skin, according to the American Chemical Society.
In body armor and Malay attire
The two women appeared about five minutes apart at the Shah Alam High Court, about 27 km (16 miles) west of Kuala Lumpur. They were handcuffed and wore body armor over Malay traditional attire known as “baju kurung,” a loose-fitting full-length dress, consisting of a skirt and a blouse.
About 250 police officers, including many in combat gear, guarded the court’s compound for Friday’s hearing, which lasted 30 minutes.
Doan looked calm during the hearing, but Aisyah cried near the end.
Judge Azmi Ariffin ruled the two defendants would be tried together. He set 11 days of trial in October and 12 days the following month. The women’s lawyers said they would enter their plea during the first day of the trial, on Oct. 2.
Prosecutors said 30 to 40 witnesses would be called. The evidence handed over to the defense included CCTV recordings, according to lead prosecutor Muhammad Iskandar Ahmad. Defense attorney Gooi Soon Seng complained last month that he could not mount a proper defense for his client without such key evidence gathered by the prosecution.
Andreano Erwin, Indonesia’s acting ambassador to Kuala Lumpur, was at the hearing. He told reporters Aisyah might be feeling the strain after being in police custody for about five months while facing the prospect of waiting another three months for her trial to start.
“Anyone who is in an uncertain situation like Siti would feel such similar pressure,” Andreano said, using Aisyah’s first name.
Only suspects charged
The women, who face the death penalty if convicted, have said they were duped into thinking that they were taking part in harmless prank for a hidden-camera TV show.
The two are the only suspects to be charged with Kim’s murder, although Malaysian authorities identified seven North Koreans as suspects early on in the investigation.
South Korean blames Pyongyang for the killing and Malaysian investigators said they were looking for four North Korean men who flew out of Malaysia on the day Kim died. They were filmed by a security camera at the same airport.
Three other North Koreans who had been sought by police for questioning in the case, including the second secretary of Pyongyang’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur, were allowed to return home freely.
They left Malaysia in late March as part of a deal resolving a bilateral diplomatic row over the killing, when Kuala Lumpur agreed to return Kim’s body to North Korea in exchange for nine Malaysians who had been prevented from leaving the communist state.
Pyongyang has denied that it was behind the attack, saying South Korea and the United States were mounting a campaign to discredit it.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.