A Malaysian court on Thursday ordered two Southeast Asian women to make their defense on charges of assassinating the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un using a banned chemical weapon in a case described by prosecutors as “only seen in James Bond movies.”
Judge Azmi Ariffin spent 2½ hours reading his judgment where he determined prosecutors have presented enough evidence for Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong to be required to present their defense on charges of murdering Kim Jong Nam at a Kuala Lumpur airport on Feb. 13, 2017.
“I cannot rule out political assassinations. Suffice to say I find the evidence at this juncture satisfied the ingredients of the charge that have been supplied by the prosecution. I must call them to enter a defense,” Judge Azmi ruled.
He also praised the attorneys on both sides for their efforts to this point.
“I have taken a step back and relooked (sic) at the evidence objectively and view the prosecution case from all angles, especially the demeanors of the prosecution witnesses at the trial. I have also carefully considered the very strong and forceful arguments advanced before me by the learned defense counsels and the learned deputy public prosecutor,” Judge Azmi said.
He did not announce a date for the trial to resume.
“I’m very excited and happy with the decision. Don’t worry there’s a second chance for us to continue with the prosecution. Now we are waiting for the date for the case management,” deputy public prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin said.
Siti and Doan could face the death penalty if convicted. The duo, in their 20s, pleaded not guilty to the charge of killing Kim Jong Nam by smearing his face with the deadly VX nerve agent.
Rusdi Kirana, the Indonesian ambassador to Malaysia made a brief statement after hearing the judge’s decision. “I am sad,” he said.
Defense: women were duped
The women’s lawyers maintained that they were duped by suspected North Korean agents into believing they were being paid to perform a video prank.
Four North Koreans, labeled as suspected government agents and allegedly the masterminds, had been jointly accused of carrying out the murder with the women. They allegedly recruited the women and provided them with the lethal poison on the day of the murder.
Police said they fled the country the same day Kim was murdered and none are in custody.
Kim Jong Un’s regime rejected accusations by U.S. officials that it was behind the murder. Kim Jong Nam was seen by some as a potential political threat to his brother’s dictatorial rule.
Kim Jong Nam’s assassination was among reasons cited by U.S. officials in pushing for North Korea’s November 2017 re-inclusion in a blacklist of nations described as state sponsors of terrorism.
Prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin rejected accusations that Pyongyang was behind the murder.
“There is no evidence whatsoever that there is a conspiracy by the North Koreans or even the [leader] of North Korea,” Wan Shaharuddin told reporters before the trial adjourned in June.
He had told the court that the airport murder was something “only seen in James Bond movies,” but dismissed the defense’s argument of a political conspiracy, saying it was irrelevant to the facts of the case.
He said it was absurd to think both women were unaware they were smearing a deadly chemical on Kim’s face.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.