Kuala Lumpur, Oct 2 (IANS) Two women charged with the murder of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s estranged half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, pleaded not guilty in a Malaysian court on Monday, the media reported.
The two defendants, 25-year-old Siti Aisya from Indonesia, and 29-year-old Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam, are the only suspects detained in connection with the assault and poisoning of Kim Jong-nam with the powerful VX nerve agent at the Kuala Lumpur airport on February 13, reports Efe news.
They could face the death penalty if found guilty.
The two women, handcuffed and wearing bullet-proof jackets, were escorted on Monday morning in a police convoy to the court in Shah Alam, about 25 km southwest of Kuala Lumpur.
The authorities have blocked media access to the courtroom for security reasons.
Airport security camera footage purportedly showed the two women approaching Kim in the departures hall, before smearing his face with the VX nerve agent, considered a weapon of mass destruction by the UN.
The women, who said they were tricked into playing a prank for a TV programme, were detained within two days of the incident and were charged with murder on March 1.
Kim Jong-nam, born in 1971, was the son of late North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il and actor Song Hye-rim.
He was considered the favourite to replace his father until he fell out of favour in 2001 after being detained with a Dominican passport in Japan.
Kim Jong-nam had spent the past few years in self-imposed exile in China, drawing international attention in 2012 for his criticism of the regime in Pyongyang and its succession system.
Defence counsel Hisyam Abdullah, who represents Doan, told CNN the lawyer who was appointed by North Korea to watch the brief has been instructed by their embassy to disengage himself from observing proceedings.
A second lawyer for the Vietnamese woman, Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, said that he expects the prosecution case to last until November, while the defence will start in the new year.
“Doan looks forward to the trial where her innocence will be established,” the lawyer told CNN.
North Korea has repeatedly and vehemently denied any involvement in the assassination.
The poison from the VX nerve agent kills by sending the nerve system into overdrive causing convulsions, paralysis and eventually death due to respiratory failure.
It was banned under the 1993 chemical weapons convention.
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