Kim Jong-nam trial delayed further over witness statement row

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia – The trial of two women accused of murdering the North Korean leader's half-brother faced further delays Thursday, January 24, as the prosecution tried to block the release of key witness statements sought by the defense.

Siti Aisyah from Indonesia and Doan Thi Huong from Vietnam have been on trial since October 2017, accused of murdering Kim Jong-nam by smearing the nerve agent VX on his face at Kuala Lumpur airport.

The brazen assassination in February 2017 shocked the world but the women have denied murder, saying they believed they were taking part in a prank and were tricked by North Korean agents.

Proceedings in the trial of the women, in their 20s, have moved slowly due to the large number of witnesses and the fact that hearings are held infrequently.

The case was temporarily halted late last year after Aisyah's lawyers lodged an appeal to get access to key witness statements, which prosecutors argue should not be made public.

The 7 statements are from individuals including someone who drove Kim Jong-nam around in Malaysia and acquaintances of Aisyah.

A court in the administrative capital Putrajaya ruled Thursday the statements should be given to the defense.

"The Court of Appeal has allowed our application that the statements of the 7 witnesses that we were asking for must be supplied to the defense within two weeks from today," Aisyah's lawyer, Gooi Soon Seng, told reporters.

But prosecutor Mohammad Dusuki Mokhtar said the prosecution now planned to appeal to a higher court to seek to block the release of the statements.

The prosecution will also apply Monday, January 28, to the High Court, which is hearing the main trial of the women, for the case to be put on hold while the appeal is ongoing.

The case would be "more proper and more structured if the High Court gives a postponement," said Muhammad Iskandar Ahmad, another prosecutor.

Only Aisyah was in court Thursday, as the hearing related to an appeal by her legal team.

Under current laws, the women will be handed a death sentence if convicted of murdering the estranged relative of the North's leader, Kim Jong-un.

Malaysia's new government, which took power in May, has vowed to abolish capital punishment for all crimes and has put executions on hold before seeking a change of the law in parliament. – Rappler.com