Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was carrying a dozen vials of antidote for the deadly nerve agent VX in his backpack when he was poisoned back in February, a Malaysian court heard on Friday.
A toxicologist told the court that the vials contained atropine, an antidote for poisons such as VX and insecticides.
Kim Jong Nam died at Kuala Lumpur airport on February 13 when VX was wiped on his face in a stunning assassination remnant of the Cold War.
Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, both in their 20s, face murder charges for allegedly carrying out the hit. If found guilty by the Malaysian court, they could both receive the death penalty.
The women say they were tricked into believing they were taking part in a prank for reality television. Their lawyers blame four North Korean agents for duping them into carrying out the assassination.
Kim Jong Nam had been a vocal critic of his family’s dynastic rule of North Korea while he lived in exile in Macau. His half-brother had reportedly issued a standing order for his execution, according to South Korean lawmakers.
One of the defense lawyers stressed that the “motive and reason (why Kim was carrying Atropine) was never established,” citing that the uncovered antidotes can be also used to treat stomach cramps.
Trial to resume in January
Following Friday’s hearing, the judge called a recess for the trial. Proceedings are scheduled to resume in January. The defense hopes to shift focus onto the four North Korean men who they claim plotted the attack and traveled back to Pyongyang later that day.
They also expect to question North Korean chemist Ri Jong
Chol , who they believe produced the nerve agent. Ri was arrested at his home in Malaysia shortly after the assassination but was released and deported soon after due to lack of evidence.
Summoning North Korean witnesses, however, could prove difficult for the defense. Malaysian officials have never officially accused Pyongyang of the murder, making it clear that they don’t wish to further politicize the trial. Kim’s death has already led to a diplomatic rift between the two countries, which saw Malaysia eventually forced to return Kim’s body in exchange for the release of nine Malaysians barred from leaving Pyongyang.
North Korea has denied the allegations.
dm/sms (AFP, Reuters, AP)