A Malaysian court began hearing arguments Monday in the case against two women charged with killing the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Both women pleaded not guilty to charges related to the February incident at a Kuala Lumpur airport that led to Kim Jong Nam’s death.
Siti Aisyah, 25, of Indonesia, and Vietnamese 28-year-old Doan Thi Huong claimed they believed they were taking part in a televised prank when they reportedly attacked Kim Jong Nam from behind, spreading a poisonous substance on his face.
In his opening statement Monday, however, prosecutor Muhamad Iskandar Ahmad argued that the defendants — aided by four unnamed accomplices — clearly acted with the goal of murdering the North Korean leader’s estranged relative.
“The prank practice carried out by the first and second accused with the supervision of the four who are still at large was preparation to see through their common intention to kill the victim,” he said.
A defense attorney representing Aisyah made a request to have the names of those four additional suspects, who are reportedly all North Koreans, made public
“The charge must be clear,” said Gooi Soon Seng.
Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, an attorney for Doan, said the defendant “looks forward to the trial where her innocence will be established.”
While both women claim they were tricked by North Korean operatives into taking part in the assassination and a South Korean investigation pointed to evidence suggesting Kim Jong Un gave the order, North Korea has repeatedly denied any involvement in the plot.
Kim Jong Nam had reportedly been living in exile in Macau for several years after exhibiting behavior that embarrassed his father, former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, and younger half-brother.
The trial’s opening day led to additional revelations about the attack itself, which made use of a deadly chemical known as VX.
Airport employee Juliana Idris recalled Kim Jong Nam approach her after the attack, telling her in English that he had been “attacked by a woman from behind” as “another one closed his eyes.”
Idris then took the man to Mohd Zulkarnain, a police officer working at the airport.
He testified that he noticed the victim’s eyes were red and liquid was visible on his face. Zulkarnain also admitted he initially filled out a report listing the wrong nationality for Kim Jong Nam.
“The police report I made showed the nationality as South Korean, while on the passport it was written DPR Korea,” he said.
Without recognizing the initials for the country’s official name — the Democratic Republic of North Korea — he said he operated on the assumption that Kim Jong Nam was from South Korea.
Medical assistant Rabiatul Adawiyah Mohd Sofi provided some details about the care the victim received upon leaving the airport. After spending about an hour at a nearby medical clinic, during which time he began having seizures and other serious issues, the victim was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.