Thursday, 16 August 2018

Kim Jong-nam murder suspects one step closer to death

Malaysian court moves ahead with death penalty case against two foreign female suspects widely viewed as scapegoats for a North Korean state sponsored crime

Two Southeast Asian women on trial for the February 2017 murder of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korea’s leader, were ordered today by a High Court in Malaysia to mount a defense against prosecution claims, dashing certain hopes that the accused would be acquitted and released on grounds of insufficient evidence.

Trial judge Azmi Ariffin ruled that the prosecution had proven a prima facie case against Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 26, and Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong, 29, both of whom had pleaded “not guilty” when their trial opened last October. The pair, who are the only suspects in custody in connection with the killing by poison, face a mandatory death sentence if convicted.

The Malaysian judge could not rule out the possibility of a “well-planned conspiracy” between the two women and several North Korean operatives still at large, suggesting the accused had a common intention to carry out the killing. The order will extend the closely watched trial, which is set to resume in November with Siti as its first witness.

“We are deeply disappointed with the ruling,” said Gooi Soon Seng, Siti’s lawyer, in remarks to reporters. “It doesn’t mean the court has found them guilty. The court wants to hear their version,” he said. Doan also intends to testify in court, though it is unclear when she will do so.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at