The trial of two Southeast Asian women charged with murdering Kim Jong Nam moved temporarily to a high-security lab on Monday for the viewing of defendants’ clothes tainted with a nerve agent that killed him.
During the visit defense attorneys questioned the whereabouts of a blazer that Kim was wearing on the day he was murdered.
The second week of the trial began with a trip to Malaysia’s Department of Chemistry complex where prosecutors, defense lawyers, the judge and the defendants viewed clothing and other evidence, including T-shirts that tested positive for VX, a deadly nerve agent.
“No, no. There was no blazer. We were informed, but I heard the blazer was sent back to (North) Korea,” Naran Singh, who represents Vietnamese suspect Doan Thi Hoang, told reporters.
Doan and Indonesian Siti Aisyah are charged with murdering the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as he waited to board a flight to Macau at a Kuala Lumpur airport on Feb. 13.
Prosecutors said the women, who have pleaded not guilty, smeared VX on Kim’s face.
Defense attorneys said they would seek clarification about the blazer when court resumed following the short session on Monday.
“That is what we want to ask about tomorrow,” Naran said.
Kim Jong Nam was seen on airport closed-circuit television wearing a light-grey blazer minutes before he was attacked in the airport. He was pronounced dead minutes later.
“The blazer worn by the victim on the day is vital evidence as it contains the maximum concentration of VX,” said lawyer Gooi Soon Seng who represents Aisyah, adding the trial would return Tuesday morning to the Shah Alam court near Kuala Lumpur.
Prosecutors told BenarNews that the whereabouts of the blazer would be explained when the trial resumed.
Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin, a deputy public prosecutor, said the next witness, a police officer assigned to probe the case, would testify about the victim’s clothing.
“I can’t comment now. Wait for the IO (investigating officer) to come in, he will explain where the coat went. He will give his testimony tomorrow,” he told BenarNews.
The visit to the government lab came after government chemist Raja Subramaniam offered the prosecution’s first evidence linking the lethal nerve agent to the two defendants by testifying Friday that he had found traces of VX on their clothes.
Aisyah, 25, and Doan, 28, have denied the charges, saying they thought they were playing a harmless prank while being filmed for a hidden-camera TV show.
The murder set off a six-week bilateral diplomatic row that saw Malaysia and North Korea expel their respective ambassadors and impose exit bans on each other’s citizens. Prime Minister Najib Razak joined South Korea and the United States in blaming the North Korean government agents for Kim’s death.
In late March, Malaysia agreed to return Kim Jong Nam’s body to North Korea in exchange for the release of Malaysian embassy staff and their families who had been stranded in Pyongyang as a result of the exit ban that was lifted.
Police escort Indonesian Siti Aisyah (wearing flowery dress) from the Malaysia’s Chemistry Department complex near Kuala Lumpur, Oct. 9, 2017. [Fadzil Aziz/BenarNews]
The fifth day of the trial lasted more than an hour on Monday. Judge Azmi Arrifin, the prosecution and defense teams viewed exhibits, including the defendants’ clothing and fingernail clippings.
The trial was to resume in court Monday afternoon but had to be postponed until Tuesday morning after Raja, who was to return to the witness stand, complained of exhaustion.
“It was tiring for all of us. It was hot as there was no fresh air,” Aisyah lawyer Selvi Sandrasegaram said when asked on the health of the witness.
Meanwhile, Japan’s Fuji TV broadcast a video Sunday night that appeared to show Kim Jong Nam on a gurney as medical personnel waited for an elevator to take him to an ambulance, in what could have been final moments of his life, according to the Associated Press (AP).
After the gurney carrying Kim's motionless body was brought into an apparently authorized personnel-only area of the airport for transfer to an ambulance, one of the five people with him summoned the elevator, AP reported.
It took more than a minute to arrive and during that time the attendants, dressed in green uniforms, appeared to talk while one squeezed a resuscitation device strapped to Kim’s face. After the elevator doors opened, the group still did not leave for nearly another minute, the report said.