The accused women could face death by hanging
Malaysia court rules Kim Jong Nam assassination trial can proceed
A Malaysian court ruled on Thursday that the murder trial of two women accused of assassinating the half-brother of North Korea's leader in a hit that shocked the world can proceed.
"I must accordingly find that the prosecution had made out a prima facie case against the accused persons and I must therefore call upon them to enter their defence on their respective charges," judge Azmi Ariffin told the Shah Alam High Court, outside Kuala Lumpur.
The ruling means the prosecution, which has been presenting its case for several months, has shown that there is sufficient evidence to support a murder charge against the women who allegedly killed Kim Jong Nam using VX nerve agent in a brazen hit at Kuala Lumpur airport.
The women arrived at the court in Sham Alam, outside Kuala Lumpur, under heavy police guard and wearing bulletproof vests, and were ushered past a pack of waiting journalists.
Their families insist the women were tricked into carrying out the Cold War-style killing that shocked the world, and are hopeful they will be acquitted, although state prosecutors believe they have a strong case.
Ms Huong "could never be a killer as she had always been a charming, hard-working girl", Doan Van Thanh, the Vietnamese suspect's father, told AFP at his home south of Hanoi.
Ms Aisyah's father, Asria, told reporters in the family village on Indonesia's Java island that he hoped she would be freed.
"I've been waiting for her return for so long," he said. "It's impossible that (she) committed murder. My daughter is a good kid - why would she murder anyone?"
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 last year as he waited to board a flight to Macau.
The pair, who face death by hanging if found guilty, claim they fell victim to an elaborate plot hatched by North Korean agents and believed they were taking part in a prank for a reality TV show when they attacked Mr Kim with a chemical classified as a weapon of mass destruction.
But describing the murder as like something out of a James Bond movie, prosecutors have argued the pair were well-trained assassins who knew exactly what they were doing.
During months of hearings, the court has been told that four North Koreans - who are formally accused alongside the women of committing the murder - recruited the pair and were the masterminds, providing them with the poison on the day of the murder before flying out of the country.
The trial has seen CCTV footage of Ms Huong, 30, coming up behind Mr Kim as he waited to check in for his flight to Macau, and clasping her hands on his face. Traces of VX were also found on the women's clothing.
But the defence teams have argued the pair are simply scapegoats, with the authorities unable to catch the real killers, the North Koreans, and therefore desperate to secure some kind of conviction in the case.
Despite the evidence against them, the lawyers had been confident the pair would be acquitted of murder. They insisted that prosecutors did not show they intended to kill Mr Kim, who had been living in exile for a decade since falling out of favour with the North's ruling family.
South Korea has blamed the North for ordering the assassination, an accusation that Pyongyang has repeatedly rejected.