Women accused of poisoning NKorean scion arrive for trial

Doan Thi Huong
The Associated Press

SHAH ALAM, Malaysia (AP) — Two women accused of poisoning the estranged half brother of North Korea’s leader arrived at court Wednesday for closing arguments in a murder trial that could send the women to the gallows.

Siti Aisyah of Indonesia and Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam are accused of smearing the VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam’s face in a crowded airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 13, 2017. The women have pleaded not guilty, saying they thought they were taking part in a harmless prank for a hidden-camera show.

They are the only suspects in custody, although prosecutors say four North Koreans who fled the country on the day of the attack were the masterminds. The crux of the case revolves around whether the women intended to kill Kim or if they truly were scapegoats duped by North Korean agents into taking part in a cold-blooded murder.

Defense lawyers and prosecutors are expected to wrap up their closing arguments by Friday, after which the judge could take up to a month to make a ruling. If he decides there isn’t a case, the women will be freed. If he decides there is, the women will be called to make their defense, which could take several months.

Defense lawyers have told the court that the women’s conduct in not escaping or getting rid of their VX-tainted clothing showed their innocence, and that the murder was a political assassination.

“No scapegoats can accomplish this mission. You must be trained. No room for failure,” prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin told The Associated Press before the court session began.

Kim, the eldest son in the family that has ruled North Korea since its founding, had lived abroad for years after falling out of favor. It was thought he could have been seen as a threat to Kim Jong Un’s rule.

Malaysian officials have never officially accused North Korea of involvement in Kim’s death and have made it clear they don’t want the trial politicized.