Sunday 23 April 2017

Two women formally charged with murdering Kim Jong Nam

Vietnamese suspect Doan Thi Huong, centre, is escorted from court (Daniel Chan/AP)
Vietnamese suspect Doan Thi Huong, centre, is escorted from court (Daniel Chan/AP)
Indonesian suspect Siti Aisyah arrives at Sepang court under heavy security (AP)

Two women accused of smearing VX nerve agent on the estranged half brother of North Korea's leader have been charged with murder after arriving in court under heavy protection.

Kim Jong Nam was attacked at a busy Kuala Lumpur airport terminal on February 13 and died shortly after two women approached him and wiped something on his face.

Both women have reportedly said they thought they were part of a prank TV show playing harmless tricks on unsuspecting passengers.

One of the suspects, an Indonesian woman, told authorities she was paid the equivalent of 90 US dollars (£72).

Wearing a red T-shirt and blue jeans, Indonesian suspect Siti Aisyah nodded as her translator told her: "You are accused of murdering a North Korean man at the departure hall" of Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

The other suspect, Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, wore a yellow shirt and blue jeans and said "I understand" in English as the charge was read. She looked briefly at the public gallery as she was led out and bowed her head.

The women did not enter pleas because the magistrates' court where they appeared has no jurisdiction over a murder case.

Lead prosecutor Iskander Ahmad told the court he will ask for the case to be transferred to a higher court and for both women to be tried together.

They face a mandatory death sentence if convicted.

Mr Kim's corpse is at the centre of a growing diplomatic battle between North Korea and Malaysia.

Speculation is rampant that North Korea was behind the killing, particularly after Malaysia said on Friday that VX had killed Mr Kim. Experts said the oily poison was almost certainly produced in a sophisticated state weapons laboratory.

On Tuesday, a high-level North Korean delegation arrived in Kuala Lumpur seeking custody of the body.

North Korea opposed Malaysian officials even conducting a post-mortem, while Malaysia has resisted giving up the body without getting DNA samples and confirmation from next of kin.

The delegation included Ri Tong Il, a former North Korean deputy ambassador to the United Nations, who told reporters outside the North Korean embassy that the diplomats were in Malaysia to retrieve the body and seek the release of a North Korean arrested in the case.

He said the delegation also wants "development of the friendly relationship" between North Korea and Malaysia.

Malaysian officials have confirmed that the victim of the attack was Kim Jong Nam. Pyongyang has identified him only as a North Korean national with a diplomatic passport bearing the name Kim Chol.

The killing appeared to be a well-planned hit. Malaysian authorities say North Koreans put the deadly nerve agent VX on the hands of the two women who then placed the toxin on Mr Kim's face.

He died on the way to hospital within about 20 minutes of the attack, they say.

AP

Press Association

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