Kim Jong-nam murder trial: Will suspects be acquitted?

Hidir Reduan

KUALA LUMPUR: TWO women, one from Indonesia and another from Vietnam, will know today whether they will walk free or be required to enter their defence over the murder of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Shah Alam High Court judge Datuk Azmi Ariffin’s decision on Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong will be guided by the testimonies of 34 prosecution witnesses, who gave evidence over the span of the 39-day murder trial that began on Oct 2 last year.

In the course of the high-profile hearing, 236 pieces of evidence were presented in court, including the clothing worn by both accused and victim, as well as closed-circuit television (CCTV) recordings of the killing.

Siti Aisyah, 26, and Thi Huong, 29, and four others still at large were accused of murdering Jong-nam, 45, at the departure hall of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (klia2) in Sepang, Selangor, at 9am on Feb 13 last year.

The two women were first charged at the Sepang magistrate’s court on March 1 last year before the case was transferred to the Shah Alam High Court for trial.

Lawyers Gooi Soon Seng and Hisyam Teh Poh Teik represented Siti Aisyah and Thi Huong, respectively.

On April 5, Selangor prosecution director Muhamad Iskandar Ahmad closed the prosecution’s case after having tendered oral evidence of witnesses, including the Malaysian Chemistry Department’s Alcohol and Clinical Toxicology Unit head Dr K. Sharmilah and the department’s Chemical Weapon Centre Laboratory head Dr S. Raja.

The prosecution offered 93 witnesses to be called by the defence, including Siti Aisyah’s roommate, Jong-nam’s personal driver and best friend, the ambulance driver present during the incident and a worker of the hotel where Thi Huong had stayed.

During trial, the High Court was told by Dr Raja that Jong-nam’s death was caused by the VX nerve gas, with death by the gas being the first in Malaysia and the second such incident in the world.

Due to security concerns, the process of identifying evidence in the case was made at the Malaysian Chemistry Department due to fears that the then-still active effects of the VX nerve gas could harm members of the public in open spaces.

In his oral evidence, Dr Raja confirmed that the VX nerve gas was detected on a sleeveless T-shirt packed in a package labelled “Siti Aisyah”, and a white T-shirt with the printed words “LOL” on the front in a package labelled “Thi Huong”.

On Oct 24 last year, Siti Aisyah complained of shortness of breath and cried during a visit to the scene of the crime at klia2.

She sat on a bench at the airport to rest.

In response, the prosecution applied for both women to be provided wheelchairs during the four-hour visit to the crime scene.

Both accused were tried on a charge of murdering Jong-nam, an offence which carried the death penalty under Section 302 of the Penal Code.

The case drew widespread media attention in Malaysia and abroad, which involved Jong-nam’s death by exposure to the VX nerve gas at klia2, while he waited for his flight to Macau. He had arrived in Malaysia on Feb 6 last year.

Two days after his death, two foreign women, one from Indonesia and the other from Vietnam, were nabbed after the authorities identified them via the airport’s CCTV footage.

Jong-nam, who was the eldest son of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, lived in exile in China and Southeast Asia following a fallout with several members of his family.

Found with a passport with the name Kim Chol, he died while being transported to Putrajaya Hospital.

The incident triggered a temporary diplomatic clash between Malaysia and North Korea, which saw both countries withdrawing their respective embassies, and ordering their citizens to leave Malaysia and North Korea. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd