An Indonesian defendant in the Kim Jong Nam murder case won an appeal to obtain statements from seven witnesses, but prosecutors said Thursday they would ask a higher court to overturn the ruling potentially delaying the trial’s resumption.
A three-judge Appeals Court panel ordered prosecutors to turn over the witness statements, but stayed their order to allow an appeal to the federal court.
Indonesian citizen Siti Aisyah and co-defendant Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam have been standing trial for the February 2017 assassination of Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un during a chemical attack at a Kuala Lumpur area airport.
“When I was a trial judge, I would direct the prosecution to supply witness statements to the defense after the prosecution’s case was concluded,” Justice Harmindar Singh Dhaliwal told the prosecution team.
Attorney Gooi Soon Seng, who is leading the legal team representing Siti, said the statements were crucial for her defense, adding that the trial scheduled to resume on Jan. 28 likely would be delayed again by the appeal. Doan was not in court, because she was not a party to the appeal.
“If we are allowed to see the statements, then we will get a fairer trial. ... If we do not get a fair trial, where do we get justice?” Gooi said, according to the Associated Press. “Why must truth be shrouded by the policy of privilege?”
Siti and Doan are charged with the murder of Kim, who died after being exposed to the toxic VX nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 on Feb. 13, 2017. They could face the death penalty, if convicted.
Prosecutors argued that their refusal to turn over the statements from the seven, including a Japanese friend of Kim and the man’s chauffeur who transported Kim around Kuala Lumpur, was based on national security grounds. Two other witnesses were Indonesian roommates of Siti.
Dhaliwal, who serves on the panel with presiding Justice Umi Kalthum and Justice Rhodzariah Bujang, challenged the prosecution’s concern.
“It was also a policy for the defense to get a fair trial,” he said.
The ruling ordering lawyers to turn over the statements was unprecedented, prosecutor Iskandar Ahmad told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.
“That is why we are pushing this to the federal court, this is a matter of principle, and could set a new precedence in future cases,” he said.
Withholding the statements was a policy issue, according to prosecutor Dusuki Mokhtar.
“For example, information could create an impact on national security and interests of justice. This information could be used by the defense to discredit the administration of justice and police,” he said.
Since the trial began in October 2017, defense attorneys maintained that the two women were duped by suspected North Korean agents into believing they were being paid to perform a video prank at the airport. Four North Korean men, whom Malaysian police linked to the assassination, fled Malaysia hours after the attack.
Prosecutors rested their case in June 2018. On Aug. 16, presiding Judge Azmi Ariffin ruled that there was enough evidence against both women to carry on with the trial and allow them to present their defense.
He ordered the trial to resume in November. But he later allowed a delay until this month because Gooi, one of the defense attorneys, was recovering from surgery.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.