A Malaysian court has ruled that the evidence against two women accused of murdering the half-brother of North Korea’s leader is strong enough for the case to go to trial.
Kim Jong-nam died at Kuala Lumpur’s airport last year after the toxic VX nerve agent was rubbed on his face.
Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong pleaded not guilty – they say they thought they were taking part in a TV prank show.
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They could face the death penalty if convicted of murder.
Defence lawyers had earlier been confident that the case against their clients would be dropped, saying it was clear they had no motive to kill Mr Kim.
But a judge on Thursday ruled that the actions of the two women – which were captured on security camera footage – were enough to infer that they had intended to kill him.
An airport ‘prank’
Mr Kim, the estranged half-brother of Kim Jong-un, had been waiting to board a flight to Macau on 13 February last year when two women approached him in the departure area.
CCTV footage shows one woman placing her hands over his face before she and the other woman leave the scene.
Mr Kim sought medical help, saying a chemical had been sprayed on him. He died on the way to hospital from what was later found to have been exposure to the banned toxic nerve agent VX.
Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam have said they were innocent victims of an elaborate North Korean plot.
Their defence lawyers have said they believed they were filming a TV stunt – in the days before Mr Kim’s death, they had been paid to take part in pranks where they wiped liquid on people at airports, hotels and shopping malls.
Four men – believed to be North Koreans who left Malaysia on the day of the murder – have also been charged in the case, but have not been found.
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Kim Jong-nam was largely estranged from his family, after being bypassed for inheriting the leadership in favour of his younger half-brother, Kim Jong-un. He spent most of his time overseas in Macau, mainland China and Singapore.
He had spoken out in the past against his family’s dynastic control of North Korea and in a 2012 book was quoted as saying he believed his half-brother lacked leadership qualities.
North Korea has denied any involvement in the killing.