Sunday 25 August 2019

Prosecution in Kim Jong Nam murder trial to continue into next year

Doan Thi Huong is escorted by police as she leaves the Shah Alam court house, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (AP)
Doan Thi Huong is escorted by police as she leaves the Shah Alam court house, outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (AP)

The prosecution in the trial of two women accused of killing the half brother of North Korea's leader is not expected to end until the second quarter of 2018.

On Thursday, prosecutors in Malaysia wrapped up another week in the trial that started in early October.

Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam pleaded not guilty to murdering Kim Jong Nam with VX nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur Airport. They would face the death penalty if convicted.

The trial will resume on November 28 for four days and then continue over several dates in January, February and March.

Defence lawyer Salim Bashir said that once the prosecution case ends, the judge could take a month or more to decide whether to free the women or call their defence.

Prosecutors have said four North Koreans conspired with the two women to plot the murder and fled the country the day of the attack.

The hearing has been postponed several times this month after police investigating officer Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz forgot to bring his investigation notes and defence lawyers had to wait for him to supply documents.

Defence lawyers have described Mr Wan Azirul as the most important witness.

Gooi Soon Seng, Aisyah's lawyer, this week told the court he can only resume his cross-examination of Mr Wan Azirul after studying the latest documents supplied by the police officer - more than 70,000 pages of content in the Korean language found in mobile phones belonging to North Korean chemist Ri Jong Chol.

Ri was detained shortly after the murder but released due to lack of evidence and deported.

Mr Gooi said Ri, who had used a North Korean embassy car since 2015, was a key suspect as his house could have been a clandestine lab to make the nerve agent.

"This case hinges on circumstantial evidence. Apart from the (airport video) footage, there is no direct witness in the case. We want to show that the police officer is lopsided in his investigations, that he didn't bother to probe the motive in the murder," Mr Gooi said.

"Four men have escaped and they are putting the blame on the girls to make it look like a simple murder. But if you put all the circumstances together, it's a political murder in which the girls have no interest. We have to show how they are used as scapegoats and they don't know what they are doing."

So far, 18 witnesses have given evidence and prosecutors said they have about 20 more minor witnesses.


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