Two women plead not guilty to killing Kim Jong-nam

Trial begins in Malaysia for women who wiped deadly nerve agent VX on North Korean leader's half-brother.

    Two women accused of assassinating the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un with a banned nerve agent pleaded not guilty at the start of a high-profile murder trial in a Malaysian court on Monday.

    Indonesian Siti Aisyah, 25, and Doan Thi Huong, 28, a Vietnamese, are charged with killing Kim Jong-nam by smearing his face with VX - a chemical poison banned by the United Nations - at Kuala Lumpur's international airport on February 13.

    The women told their lawyers they did not know they were participating in a deadly attack and believed they were carrying out a prank for a reality TV show.

    Both women wore bullet-proof vests as they were led into the court on the outskirts of Malaysia's largest city. They face the death penalty if convicted.

    Prosecutor Muhamad Iskandar Ahmad read a statement giving details of Kim's murder.

    "The evidence clearly showed that their action to swipe the poison known as VX caused the death of the victim," he told the court.

    OPINION: Kim Jong-nam attack reveals true nature of North Korea 

    Defence lawyers said the real culprits have left Malaysia and the women's innocence will be proven in court.

    They demanded the prosecution immediately name four other suspects who have also been charged in the case, but who are still at large. The prosecution said their identities would be revealed during the trial.

    Kim Jong-nam's son breaks silence in video

    "A fair trial must include the right to know," Gooi Soon Seng, Aisyah's lawyer, told the court. "The charge must be clear, not ambiguous."

    The women carried out several practice runs at shopping malls in Kuala Lumpur ahead of the attack on Kim, the prosecution said.

    "The prank practice carried out by the first and second accused with the supervision of the four who are still at large was preparation to see through their common intention to kill the victim," the prosecution said in its charge sheet.

    Aisyah was paid $100-$200 for each prank and hoped the income would allow her to stop working as an escort, Gooi said.

    READ MORE: Deadly nerve agent used to kill Kim Jong-nam 

    South Korean and US officials have said Kim Jong-un's regime was behind the murder. North Korea denies the allegation.

    The trial is expected to run until November 30 and the prosecution is expected to call up to 40 witnesses.

    Kim, who was 45 or 46, was the eldest son of the family that has ruled North Korea since its founding, yet he reportedly fell out of favour in 2001 when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a false passport, saying he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland.

    Robert Kelly, from Pusan National University in South Korea, said Kim's murder likely strained relations between allies North Korea and China, which had given him protection in its territory of Macau.

    "The Chinese realise all this North Korean gangsterism - not just the murders but the traffic in methamphetamines and counterfeit dollars - I think the Chinese would like to rein that in," Kelly told Al Jazeera. 

    North Korea: The Death of Kim Jong-nam - 101 East

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    We visualised 1.2 million votes at the UN since 1946. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the world today?

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.