By Hadi Azmi
A Malaysian prosecutor said Thursday he had no evidence of a conspiracy linking North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to the murder of his estranged half-brother in Malaysia, as the prosecution wrapped up its case against two Southeast Asian women accused of the killing.
After hearing the prosecution’s closing arguments, trial judge Azmi Ariffin announced that he would rule on Aug. 16 whether to acquit the two women – Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong – or call them to present their defense.
Prosecutors said Siti and Doan knew they were handling VX, a deadly nerve agent, when they smeared it on Kim Jong Nam’s face at a Kuala Lumpur airport on Feb. 13, 2017.
“There is no evidence whatsoever that there is a conspiracy by the North Koreans or even the [leader] of North Korea,” deputy public prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin told reporters outside the courthouse in Shah Alam. “There is no evidence of political plot. There is no evidence of criminal conspiracy.”
Siti and Doan pleaded not guilty to the charges that carry the death penalty. Throughout the trial, their lawyers maintained that they were duped by suspected North Korean agents into believing they were being paid to perform a video prank.
Before speaking to reporters, Wan Shaharuddin told the court that the airport murder was something “only seen in James Bond movies,” but dismissed the defense’s argument of a political conspiracy, saying it was irrelevant to the facts of the case.
Siti and Doan must have known the best way for the nerve agent to penetrate their victim’s body, he said, saying it was “absurd” to think that both women were unaware they were smearing a deadly chemical on Kim’s face.
But he said prosecutors could prove criminal intent – or the motive – through circumstantial evidence only.
“There is no way for me to prove intention by way of direct evidence,” he said. “There is no way, unless they come to court and confess, ‘Yes, I had the intention to kill Kim Jong Nam.’”
Since the trial began in October 2017, the prosecution presented 34 witness testimonies and presented airport security footage showing the two women heading to separate restrooms.
Prosecutors told the court that the women knew they needed to wash the chemical off their hands within 15 minutes to avoid being contaminated.
An expert witness testified that while trace residue of VX were found on the fingernails and T-shirt worn by Doan, Siti’s hands were found to be clean.
Wan Shaharuddin told the court Thursday that the video proved Siti had thoroughly washed her hands to rid herself of the deadly chemical.
“We don’t need a rocket scientist to ascertain her conduct,” he said.
But Siti’s lawyer, Gooi Soon Seng, pointed out during his court rebuttal that, according to the video’s timestamp, his client was seen entering the washroom 13 minutes after she allegedly assaulted Kim with the highly toxic chemical.
Gooi said this raises question to the prosecution’s argument that Siti was aware of the risk she was taking by having the chemical weapon applied onto her palms by North Korean men who fled the country hours after the attack.
The defense lawyer also laughed off Wan Shaharuddin’s comment’s that Malaysian law does not put a lot of weight on motive.
“In a murder case, motive is a very important issue. It cannot be excluded,” Gooi said. “They cannot prove a motive so they say motive is not important.”