Prosecutor: Suspects in N. Korean death are trained killers

Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, center, is escorted by police as she leaves court after hearing at Shah Alam High Court in Shah Alam, Malaysia, Thursday, June 28, 2018. Two Southeast Asian women on trial for killing the estranged half brother of North Korea's leader are trained assassins who used "criminal force" to rub the toxic VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam's eyes and face, prosecutors said Thursday. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

Prosecutors say two Southeast Asian women on trial for killing the estranged half brother of North Korea's leader are trained assassins

SHAH ALAM, Malaysia — Two Southeast Asian women on trial for killing the estranged half brother of North Korea's leader are trained assassins who used "criminal force" to rub the toxic VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam's eyes and face, prosecutors said in their closing arguments Thursday.

The women's claim that they were duped by North Korean agents into thinking they were playing a harmless prank for a hidden camera show was an "ingenious attempt ... to cover up their sinister plot in order to obscure the eyes of the public and the court," prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin told the court.

Indonesia's Siti Aisyah and Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam, who face the death penalty if convicted, have pleaded not guilty to murdering Kim in a crowded airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 13, 2017. Kim died within two hours. The women are the only suspects in custody, although prosecutors say they colluded with four North Korean suspects who fled the country on the day of the assassination.

Doan called herself an actress, while Aisyah was a masseur. Wan Shaharuddin said it was "not impossible for someone to lead a double life."

"This type of assassination can only be seen in James Bond movies and the two girls were not randomly picked as a scapegoat. They knew what they had to do and they achieved in doing it," Wan Shaharuddin said. "There is no room for failure. Only selected and trained individuals can ensure success."

Defense lawyers said the women had no motive to kill Kim nor were they aware they were handling poison. They said their clients were innocent pawns in a high-profile political assassination by North Korea.

The judge set a ruling for Aug. 16 to decide whether the women should enter their defense or be acquitted.

Wan Shaharuddin said that the women were in the know because they deliberately targeted Kim's eyes and hastily washed their hands after the attack. An expert has testified that the eyes are the best route of entry for the poison to spread, and that VX can be washed off within 15 minutes of exposure without causing any symptoms.

With Kim weighing nearly 100 kilograms (220 pounds) and standing at 5 feet 10 inches (1.7 meters) tall, the prosecutor said the women had "used their bodily power" to forcefully smear the poison on his eyes and face.

"Criminal force was used," he said. "The conduct of the two accused was to get the attack done quickly without timely reaction from Kim ... therefore they must be aggressive otherwise (Kim) might block the act of applying the dangerous substance and their mission would eventually fail."

He said it could be inferred from security video footage that the two attacked at the same time to ensure "their plan succeed with flying colors."

He said the women were not coerced nor under duress when they attacked Kim. Despite their claims of pranks, he said their facial expression and conduct during the attack didn't reflect any humor.

Although the operation may have been planned by the North Korean suspects, Wan Shaharuddin said the women were the actual killers as they had executed the plan and directly caused Kim's death. He acknowledged police investigations were not perfect but urged the court to ask the women to answer why VX was found on their clothing and on Huong's fingernails, and why they had attacked Kim if they were really carrying out a prank.

"If they remain silent, all the questions that are lingering in the court's mind will remain unanswered and they should be convicted," he said.

Aisyah's lawyer Gooi Soon Seng said in his rebuttal to the prosecution that the case was based on "flimsy evidence" with many "doubts and gaps". Huong's lawyer Naran Singh said the women would not have just walked fast but would have "run for their life" to wash their hands after the attack if they knew they had poison on their hands.

The lawyers said the women should also be acquitted because they had been deprived of a fair trial due to shoddy investigations and a flawed charge that didn't name the four men at large. A police investigator revealed the names of the four people during his testimony.

Aisyah and Huong were calm and shook hands with their lawyers and embassy officials at the close of the trial.

Kim, the eldest son in the family that has ruled North Korea since its founding, had been living abroad for years after falling out of favor. It is thought he could have been seen as a threat to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's rule.

Malaysian officials have never officially accused North Korea of involvement in Kim's death and have made it clear they don't want the trial politicized.

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