Malaysia charges 2 women with murder of Kim Jong-nam
Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam could be hanged if convicted
Malaysia on Wednesday charged two women with murder over their alleged involvement in the killing of the estranged half-brother of North Korea's leader.
Siti Aishah, a 25-year-old mother of one from Jakarta, and Doan Thi Huong, 28, from rural northern Vietnam, could be hanged if they are convicted for the killing of Kim Jong-nam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb. 13.
Police brought the two women to court handcuffed. As they left, they were made to wear bullet-proof vests, reflecting Malaysian authorities' fears that others involved in the killing could want the women silenced.
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No plea was recorded after the charges were read out against them.
Kim, who had criticized the regime of his family and his half-brother Kim Jong-un, was killed after allegedly being smeared with VX nerve agent across his face.
VX nerve agent is a chemical described by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction.
Aishah and Huong have told diplomats who visited them in custody that they were unwitting pawns in an assassination that U.S. officials and South Korean intelligence have said was organised by North Korean agents.
The next court date will be on April 13, when prosecutors will apply for the accused to be tried jointly.
South Korean officials believe the killing was carried out by North Korean agents, and Malaysia has identified eight North Koreans suspected of involvement in the killing.
While Malaysian police arrested the women in the days after the attack, they are are also holding one North Korean man and have identified seven other North Koreans wanted in connection with the sensational case.
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Attorney general Mohamed Apandi Ali said earlier in the week the North Korean in custody will not be charged yet. Identified by police as Ri Jong Chol, his remand period ends on Friday.
The security camera footage, which has been released in the media, showed two women assaulting Kim in the departure hall of the airport, and the victim stumbling into a medical clinic. He died within 20 minutes of the assault.
Huong is believed to be the woman wearing a white shirt emblazoned with the acronym LOL, whose image was caught on security cameras while waiting for a taxi after the attack.
Appearing in court on Wednesday, Huong wore a yellow shirt and blue jeans, and her wavy hair was dyed blonde.
Aishah was caught a day after Huong. Police said she suffered a bout of vomiting while in custody that they said was due to side-effects from exposure to the VX. Indonesian diplomats who visited her subsequently said she was in good health.
In court, Aishah indicated that she understood the charges against her. Wearing jeans and a t-shirt, her solemn face framed by long, dark hair, Aishah nodded to Indonesian embassy officials as she left the courtroom.
"We hope that she gets a fair trial, afforded all her legal rights and not tried by the public," Indonesia's foreign ministry spokesman Armanatha Nasir told Reuters in Jakarta.