Trial of Indonesian and Vietnamese women accused of murdering Kim Jong-nam to resume on January 7
- Lawyers for the two complained of difficulties in getting witnesses to take the stand at the Shah Alam High Court, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur
- The pair are being tried for killing Kim by applying the deadly VX nerve agent on his face, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 13 last year
A Malaysian court on Wednesday set a January 7 start date for the defence phase of the trial of two Southeast Asian women charged with murdering Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un.
Meanwhile, lawyers for the two complained of difficulties in getting witnesses to take the stand at the Shah Alam High Court, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
Lawyers for Indonesian defendant Siti Aisyah, 26, had to apply to the court to compel the prosecution to furnish them with the statements given by eight witnesses to the police during their investigation, in order for them to better prepare for her defence.
Aisyah is being jointly tried with Doan Thi Huong, 30, from Vietnam, for killing Kim by applying the deadly VX nerve agent on his face, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport’s budget terminal on February 13 last year.
In August, judge Azmi Ariffin ruled that the prosecution had established enough evidence based on the testimony of 34 witnesses and airport security camera footage, and ordered the two women to defend themselves against what he said was a “well-planned conspiracy” hatched with four North Korean suspects still at large.
Aisyah and Huong are accused of having “common intention” with the four North Koreans to murder Kim, but the four – Ri Ji-hyon, Ri Jae-nam, Hong Song-hac and O Jong-gil – fled Malaysia within hours of the incident and are believed to have returned to North Korea.
Lead prosecutor Muhammad Iskandar Ahamd told reporters there is no legal obligation to supply the defence team with witness statements, but Kulaselvi Sandrasegaram, one of Aisyah’s lawyers, said the witnesses are key to lawyers’ defence of her.
The witnesses include a man who introduced Aisyah to the North Koreans, her two Indonesian roommates, her boyfriend who sent her to the airport, Kim’s Japanese friend who told the police that the murdered victim had feared for his life, and the Japanese man’s driver who chauffeured Kim around the city whenever he visited.
Kulaselvi said that the defence team has so far only managed to personally interview the Japanese man and his driver out of the eight witnesses they sought in their application. Aisyah’s roommates are believed to have left the country while the rest could not be contacted.
The judge has scheduled December 16 to hear arguments on the application.
Meanwhile, Huong’s lawyers told reporters they may call about five to six different witnesses, including her, to testify.
There will be witnesses from Vietnam whom the lawyers said need some persuasion to get them to turn up in court.
The defence had argued that the North Korean agents were the real mastermind behind Kim’s murder and that the women were mere scapegoats who thought they were hired to take part in prank videos. The defence hearing was supposed to begin last week but had to be postponed to next year after Aisyah’s lead counsel, Gooi Soon-seng, fell ill.