Women charged with murder of North Korean to testify in Malaysia trial

Nellie Chapman
August 16, 2018

CNN earlier said the women accused of murdering the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could walk free Thursday, if a judge decides there's not enough evidence to proceed with their trial.

The Indonesian Siti Aisyah and the Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong are accused of murdering Kim Jong Nam, the estranged brother of Kim Jong-un at the KLIA 2 airport.

High Court Judge Azmi Ariffin said it could be inferred from evidence presented in court that there was a "well-planned conspiracy" between the two women and four North Korean suspects at large to kill Kim "systemically".

Huong did not react to the ruling, but Siti Aisyah burst into tears and had to be comforted by her lawyers and officials of the Indonesian embassy. The women have said they thought they were taking part in a prank for a TV show.

Jong Nam, who is also the eldest son of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, arrived in Malaysia on Feb 6 and was scheduled to board a 9am flight to Macau on Feb 13.

Kim Jong-nam was largely estranged from his family, after being bypassed for inheriting the leadership in favour of his younger half-brother, Kim Jong-un.

Malaysian police later said VX nerve agent, classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations, was used in the attack.

Kuala Lumpur arrests North Korean citizen Ri Jong Chol in connection with the murder.

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Huong's lawyers also said they did not expect the ruling. Investigators refused to release the corpse.

Alexander Matsegora, the Russian ambassador to North Korea, told Russian state media that talks between Mr Putin and Mr Kim were "on the agenda". They are believed to be back in North Korea.

South Korea has blamed the North for ordering the assassination, an accusation that Pyongyang has repeatedly rejected. Malaysia retaliated and the worldwide community called for calm amid allegations of hostage holding.

Ms. Huong and Ms. Aisyah have pleaded not guilty to murder, which in Malaysia carries a mandatory sentence of death by hanging. Frustrated Malaysian police said they believed he was involved in the plot but lacked evidence to prove it.

At the end of the month, Malaysia's then Prime Minister Najib Razak announces an agreement has been reached to return the body to North Korea. Nine Malaysians stuck in Pyongyang were free to travel and North Koreans in Kuala Lumpur were allowed to go home.

The women, who are set to testify during the defence stage of the trial, looked shocked and tearful as the ruling was handed down. They maintain their innocence. It added fuel to a USA drive to isolate the regime that eventually led to a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump this year in Singapore.

Despite the evidence against them, the lawyers are confident the pair will be acquitted of murder.

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