Evidence against two women facing the death penalty for killing the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was described as having “doubts and gaps that stood out like a sore thumb” by defence lawyers as they laid out their closing arguments in Malaysia’s high court on Wednesday.
Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, and Doan Thi Huong, 28, a Vietnamese national, are accused of colluding with four North Koreans to murder Kim Jong-nam by smearing his face with banned chemical poison VX at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport on February 13, 2017.
The case, which resumed on Wednesday after a break since April, is set to close on Friday when judges will have up to a month to decide whether the women will be freed or called to further defend themselves against the charges.
The women had previously told the court that they did not know they were participating in a deadly attack and their alleged North Korean co-conspirators had led them to believe they were carrying out a prank for a reality TV show.
Aisyah’s lawyer Gooi Soon Seng said the absence of the North Koreans, who had since left Malaysia “left many questions and issues unanswered”.
“The role purportedly played by the four persons still at large will continue to remain a mystery until they are brought to the court of justice,” he said.
He said his client, unlike Huong, had no traces of VX in her fingernails and suffered no symptoms of VX poisoning.
He also cast doubt on evidence that Aisyah’s shirt tested positive to VX trace substances, saying the item was destroyed after testing, leaving it unable to be scrutinised by the court.
CCTV footage showing an unidentified figure hurrying away from the scene after the attack was also shown.
Huong’s lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik said the behaviour of the women during and after the incident demonstrated they did not realise what they were doing.
“In our combined 90 years of legal practice, we have not come across a murder case where an accused commits murder in broad daylight and in full view of the CCTV cameras, goes back to the scene of crime two days later in similar circumstances … The strength of this piece of subsequent conduct evidence buries the prosecution’s case,” Teh said.
In contrast, the North Koreans changed clothes at the airport and fled the scene quickly, he said.
Both lawyers suggested the attacks were politically motivated.
“This is a political assassination undertaken by North Korea. It is obvious. It is equally obvious that the killers were the North Koreans,” Teh said.
Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, had spoken out publicly against his family’s dynastic control of the isolated, nuclear-armed nation.
He had been living in exile, under Beijing’s protection, in the territory of Macau, and had criticised the regime of his family and his half-brother.
But the Malaysian government has avoided accusing North Korea of involvement and sought to de-politicise the case as much as possible.
Both lawyers said the women, by comparison, had no motive given neither knew Jong-nam nor had any motive to kill him.
Gooi said that it was “tantamount to a declaration of war” if the North Koreans were the source of the VX, something they couldn’t say for sure because the Malaysian police had failed to adequately investigate it.
Prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin told the Associated Press before court opened, however, that “no scapegoats can accomplish this mission.”