Wednesday 13 December 2017

Kim murder trial visits Malaysian lab to examine nerve agent-tainted clothes

An entrance to the courthouse is cordoned off as the trial of two women accused of killing the North Korean leader's half-brother Kim Jong Nam is held (Vincent Thian/AP)
An entrance to the courthouse is cordoned off as the trial of two women accused of killing the North Korean leader's half-brother Kim Jong Nam is held (Vincent Thian/AP)

The Malaysian court holding the trial of two women accused of killing the estranged half-brother of North Korea's leader moved temporarily on Monday to a high-security laboratory to view the VX-tainted clothes the suspects wore the day of the attack.

Judges often visit crime scenes in Malaysia, and in this case the move was made after government chemist Raja Subramaniam gave evidence last week that the VX nerve agent he found on the women's clothing may still be active.

His evidence was the first linking VX to Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam, who are accused of smearing the nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam's face in a Kuala Lumpur airport terminal on February 13.

Selvi Sandrasegaram, one of the lawyers for Siti, said Mr Raja spent more than an hour showing VX-tainted evidence from a small room inside the laboratory at the chemist department.

Ms Selvi said she was also in the room, along with Huong and two police officers, while the others watched through a glass screen outside the room.

The lawyer said Huong wanted to go into the room to have a closer look at the evidence, which included her fingernail clippings and white jumper emblazoned with the "LOL" acronym for "laughing out loud".

Mr Raja also said last week that VX was detected on Kim Jong Nam's face, eyes, clothing, and in his blood and urine samples.

That evidence was introduced in court in sealed bags, but the visit to the laboratory was arranged so the evidence from the women could be taken out of the bags for viewing.

The trial was originally due to resume after lunch at the court building but the judge deferred it after Mr Raja complained he was exhausted, Ms Selvi said.

Mr Raja will be cross-examined by defence lawyers when the trial resumes on Tuesday.

Prosecutors have also said they will present airport security videos this week which show the two women carrying out the attack and indicate they knew they were handling poison.

Defence lawyers have said the women were duped by suspected North Korean agents into believing they were playing a harmless prank for a hidden TV-camera show.

The two women pleaded not guilty at the start of their trial last week to charges of murder which carry a mandatory death sentence if they are convicted.

Kim, the eldest son in the current generation of North Korea's dynastic rulers, was believed to be a family outcast who may have been perceived as a threat by the nation's leader, his youngest sibling Kim Jong Un.

VX is banned by an international treaty as a weapon of mass destruction but is believed to be part of North Korea's chemical weapons arsenal.

AP

Press Association

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