Suspects of Kim assassination should not go through ‘trial by ambush’
KUALA LUMPUR // Two women accused of assassinating the half-brother of North Korea’s leader risk being subjected to a “trial by ambush”, a defence lawyer said on Thursday, accusing the police of failing to share key evidence.
Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, and Doan Thi Huong, 28, from Vietnam, were taken in bulletproof vests to a heavily guarded magistrate’s court for a hearing ahead of a murder trial that could see them hanged.
Police accuse the pair of wiping the banned nerve agent VX on Kim Jong-nam’s face at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 13 as he was about to board a flight to Macau, where he was living in exile. They say they were tricked into thinking they were playing a harmless prank for a hidden-camera show.
Rival South Korea accuses the North of masterminding the killing of Kim, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Pyongyang denies the accusation, insisting he died of a heart attack.
Ms Siti’s lawyer told the court they had not been provided with a report from the police and prosecution on statements taken from three North Koreans who were allowed to leave Malaysia under a deal that defused a diplomatic crisis between the two nations.
“The duty of the investigation officer is not to merely bolster up the case for the prosecution so as to secure a conviction but to establish the unvarnished truth of the case so that the justice may prevail,” Gooi Soon Seng said.
Mr Gooi also sought the court’s intervention in making any CCTV footage in relation to the murder available to the defence to ensure both sides have equal access to evidence. He said he fears the women will become scapegoats because all the other people believed to have knowledge of the case have left the country.
“There shall be no trial by ambush,” he added.
The judge has postponed the hearing until May 30.
Ms Doan’s lawyer asked the court to alter the murder charge since prosecutors have not identified four people mentioned in charge documents as accomplices to the women, but the judge did not entertain the request.
The four North Koreans who flew out of Malaysia the day of the murder are believed to be back in Pyongyang. And another three who stayed inside their country’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur to avoid questioning by police were allowed to fly home late last month after Malaysia struck a surprise deal with Pyongyang to ease tensions.
About 100 police officers, include commandos in balaclavas and carrying assault rifles, guarded the court compound during the women’s appearance.
Dressed in a red top and blue jeans, Ms Siti kept her head down throughout the hearing. Ms Doang, also casually dressed, quietly observed the court proceedings.
The case is due to be transferred to an upper court where the women will be tried for murder. If convicted, they could face the death penalty, which is carried out by hanging in Malaysia.
* Agence France-Presse and Associated Press
Updated: April 13, 2017 04:00 AM