Kim Jong Nam’s ‘Assassination’ No Prank, Say Prosecutors


SHAH ALAM, Malaysia—Two women on trial for killing the half-brother of North Korea’s ruler weren’t pranksters but trained assassins, Malaysian prosecutors said, urging a judge to reject defense arguments that the case should be summarily dismissed.

In closing statements Thursday for the prosecution phase of the trial, prosecutors said the defendants used “criminal force” and demonstrated training in attacking Kim Jong Nam, the estranged elder sibling of dictator Kim Jong Un, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in February 2017. Kim Jong Nam died shortly afterward of poisoning by VX, a nerve agent banned by the United Nations as a weapon of mass destruction.

The two women— Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam and Siti Aisyah of Indonesia—are accused of having “common intention” with a group of North Koreans to kill Mr. Kim, who had been living in exile in Macau. The U.S. and South Korea say Mr. Kim was the target of a North Korean hit team working for Pyongyang. North Koreans accused of involvement fled Malaysia after the attack and none are standing trial.

After more than eight months of hearings, Judge Azmi Ariffin adjourned the trial to Aug. 16, when he will either dismiss the case entirely for lack of proof, freeing the women, or compel them to enter a defense. Both have pleaded not guilty and face death by hanging if convicted.

The prosecution has relied heavily on airport security footage showing the two women meeting a group of North Koreans at Malaysia’s busiest airport, then assaulting Mr. Kim near an airline kiosk, with at least one of them touching her hands to his face. Mr. Kim died shortly after of VX poisoning, a postmortem report showed. A chemical investigation found traces of VX on the clothing or hands of the women.

Ms. Huong, 30, and Ms. Aisyah, 26, have told their lawyers they believed they were carrying out a prank for a TV show and didn’t know they were administering a lethal substance.

Prosecutors disputed their accounts Thursday as an “ingenious attempt” to cover up an assassination plot. They said the pair used criminal force in attacking Mr. Kim and needed to be trained killers to have been successful.

“There is no room for failure,” prosecutors said in a statement read to the court. “You can’t just pick two scapegoats from nowhere to execute the assassination.”

Ms. Huong and Ms. Aisyah must now “tell the court how the deadly substance was on their hands and why they had smeared [Mr. Kim] with that substance,” they said.

Four North Koreans involved in the assault flew from the airport shortly after the hit. Weeks later, at Malaysia’s request, they were placed on Interpol’s wanted list.

On Wednesday, defense lawyers criticized Malaysia’s investigation and made the case that the pair were unwitting dupes of North Korean operatives.

“This is a political assassination undertaken by North Korea,” said Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, a lawyer for Ms. Huong. “It is obvious.”

Defense lawyers said the women weren’t aware of a murder plot and said neither had fled following the assault. Ms. Aisyah went shopping and returned to her residence in Kuala Lumpur. Two days later, Ms. Huong returned to the airport in the same T-shirt she had worn during the incident.

Write to Ben Otto at and Yantoultra Ngui at


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