Published: Thu, August 16, 2018

Key ruling due for women on trial in Kim Jong Nam killing

Key ruling due for women on trial in Kim Jong Nam killing

The murder trial of two women accused of assassinating the half-brother of North Korea's leader can proceed, a Malaysian court ruled Thursday, in a blow to their families who insist the pair were tricked into carrying out the dramatic hit.

Siti and Doan were charged, together with four others who are at large, with the murder of Kim Chol, the alias for 15-year-old Jong-nam, by smearing the latter's face with the deadly nerve agent VX at the klia2 departure hall at 9am on February 13 last year.

They are the only two suspects in custody and face the death penalty if convicted.

Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong (front, second from right) and Indonesian national Siti Aisyah (back, second from left) are escorted by Malaysian police after a court session for their trial for their alleged roles in the assassination of Kim Jong Nam at the Shah Alam High Court, outside Kuala Lumpur, on June 27, 2018.

During months of hearings, the court has been told that four North Koreans - who are formally accused alongside the women - recruited the pair and were the masterminds, providing them with the poison on the day of the murder before fleeing the country.

Mr Kim Jong Nam died after being attacked with the VX nerve agent at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb 13, 2017.

Kim Jong Nam's killing took place in February 2017, as tensions between North Korean and the worldwide community ramped up efforts to develop nuclear warheads and the ballistic missiles to deliver them to targets as far away as the United States mainland.

Pyongyang has denied accusations by South Korean and USA officials that Kim Jong Un's regime was behind the killing.

Kim died within two hours of the attack. Over the following days investigators said diplomats and airline employees from the isolated regime were also wanted for questioning.

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

Pyongyang insists the dead man was called Kim Chol and demands his body be returned. Investigators refused to release the corpse. North Korea denies the allegation.

Tensions escalate after North Korea bans all Malaysians from leaving Pyongyang. Malaysia retaliated and the global community called for calm amid allegations of hostage holding.

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. Frustrated Malaysian police said they believed he was involved in the plot but lacked evidence to prove it.

In October, the two women will go on trial over the murder. They maintain their innocence.

The women are accused of killing Kim Jong Nam - once seen as an heir to the North Korean leadership and a rival to current leader Kim Jong Un - by smearing toxic VX on his face in February previous year as he waited to board a flight to Macau.

Huong's lawyers also said they did not expect the ruling.

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