KUALA LUMPUR: The two female suspects in the alleged assassination of the man believed to be Kim Jong Nam have been charged with murder under section 302 of penal code on Wednesday (Mar 1).
Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, 28, appeared at a magistrate's court in Sepang. They are charged with committing murder with common intention with four others who are still at large after they fled Malaysia on Feb 13.
Both said they understood the charge but no plea was entered. They left the court building, donned in bullet proof vests after.
Their lawyers, speaking to the media outside courthouse, said their clients have maintained their innocence.
The duo are accused of attacking the North Korean at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Feb 13 by swiping a lethal nerve agent on his face.
They could face the death penalty if convicted.
Both women have told diplomats from their countries that they had been paid to take part in what they believed was a prank for a reality television show.
There was heavy police presence outside the court with some 200 police officers reportedly on standby.
Speaking to journalists before court proceedings began, Aisyah's lawyer Gooi Soon Seng expressed concerns over "pre-trial concerns".
Huong's lawyer told reporters outside the court that his client had told him she was innocent.
"She denied. She denied. She said 'I'm innocent'," Selvam Shanmugam said. "Of course, she's definitely distressed because she is facing death penalty," he added.
The next court date will be on Apr 13, when prosecutors will apply for the accused to be tried jointly.
The charges against Aisyah were read first, followed by those against Huong. One North Korean man, identified by police as Ri Jong Chol, is still in police custody and has not been charged yet.
Malaysian police arrested both women in the days after the attack. Security camera footage, which has been broadcast in the media, showed them assaulting Kim Jong Nam at the airport. He died within 20 minutes.
Speaking in Jakarta, Indonesia's foreign ministry spokesman Armanatha Nasir hoped Aisyah would receive a fair trial.
"We hope that the principle of a defendant being presumed innocent until proven guilty will be adhered to," Nasir said. "The lawyer that has been appointed will make the case for Siti and we hope that she gets a fair trial, afforded all her legal rights and not tried by the public."
Huong, the Vietnamese woman, was detained 48 hours after the murder in the same airport terminal where Kim Jong Nam was killed.
She 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.
The Indonesian woman, Aisyah, was detained a day later.
MALAYSIA WON'T REVISE CAUSE OF DEATH: HEALTH MINISTER
Malaysia’s Health Minister S Subramaniam confirmed that cabinet ministers met with the North Korean delegation on Tuesday but he was not one of those present.
He said Malaysia will not be revising the cause of death and will follow legal requirements as far as handling of the body is concerned. Subramaniam said they can hold the body as long as they like given the nature of this case but they want a fast resolution and to identify him as soon as possible.
To that end they will do what they can to get DNA of next of kin to identify the man.
"The whole world says he is Kim Jong Nam so for us to say this is not Kim Chol but Kim Jong Nam, there must be evidence," said Subramaniam. "And that evidence can only be got by the DNA profiling and all that."
The minister added the issue was brought up in cabinet meeting today and the government said it will decide what happens to the body if time goes on and no one claims body.
"This is a foreign case with very high international traction so we have to decide as a government how we're going to manage it," said Subramaniam. "As far as we are concerned we will do our best to get next of kin or evidence or some kind of material from next of kin who are related by blood - and this will assist us in determining the identity of the deceased."
The autopsy report is being handed over in stages, with the preliminary toxicology report has already been sent.
"It's continuous," he said, when asked if autopsy results had been handed over to police. "The preliminary report has already been given to the police including the preliminary toxicology report. I am told they are going to have a formal meeting among all of them this week where the parties will compile all further reports together."Subra the health min
Additional reporting by Sumisha Naidu.