The defense phase of the trial of two Southeast Asian women charged with murdering Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s dictator, has been postponed to March, a lawyer said Monday.
Judge Azmi Ariffin made the ruling in his chamber at the Shah Alam High Court, defense lawyer Gooi Soon Seng told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service. The ruling moves up the defense’s presentation of its case for Vietnamese defendant Doan Thi Huong, who was to follow Indonesian defendant Siti Aisyah.
“We (the lawyers for Siti and Doan) just spoke to the judge in chamber and here are the new dates agreed by all parties. Doan will go first,” said Gooi, who represents Siti.
Doan is expected to begin her defense on March 11 and finish it on May 8. The court has allowed 18 trial days for the presentation, Gooi said. Azmi ruled that lawyers for Siti were to present her defense from May 27 to July 31.
On Thursday, deputy public prosecutor Muhamad Iskandar Ahmad told BenarNews that Doan could present her case first if all parties agreed.
Siti and Doan are charged with assassinating the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by exposing the victim to the toxic VX nerve agent at a Kuala Lumpur airport on Feb. 13, 2017. The two could face the death penalty, if convicted of killing Kim Jong Nam.
Siti was supposed to begin her defense on Monday, but the trial was delayed last week when an appeals court panel ordered prosecutors to turn over statements from seven witnesses to her attorneys.
“Of course if we are allowed to see the statement, then we will get a fairer trial,” Gooi told reporters regarding the appeals court’s ruling. “If we do not get a fair trial, where do we get justice? If we are not entitled to see the truth, why must the truth be hidden?
“Why must the truth be shrouded by the policy of privilege?”
Prosecutors said they would appeal the ruling to the federal court, citing national security concerns for their reluctance to hand over the statements.
“The prosecution’s appeal would take some time to be processed at the federal court,” Gooi said.
Since the trial began in October 2017, the defense has maintained that the defendants 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 the country hours later.
Prosecutors rested their case in June 2018 and Azmi ruled on Aug. 16 that there was enough evidence against both women to carry on with the trial and allow them to present their defense.
Siti’s defense presentation was to resume in November but was delayed until this month because Gooi was recovering from surgery. Last week’s appeal led to the court to pushing her presentation to May.
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.