Suspects in Kim Jong Nam’s Killing Say They Thought It Was for Harmless Prank

 In World
Shah Alam, Malaysia (AP) — Two women accused of smearing a banned nerve agent on the face of the estranged half brother of North Korea’s leader pleaded not guilty as their trial began Monday in the Feb. 13 assassination at a crowded Malaysian airport terminal.

Siti Aisyah of Indonesia and Doan Thi Huong of Vietnam are suspected of using VX nerve agent to kill Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur’s airport. The women say they thought they were playing a harmless prank for a hidden-camera TV show.

Vietnamese national Doan Thi Huong (C) is escorted by Malaysian police for a court appearance with Indonesian national Siti Aisyah (not pictured) at the magistrates' court in Sepang on April 13, 2017, for their alleged role in the assassination of Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un was assassinated in Malaysia on February 14. / AFP PHOTO / MANAN VATSYAYANA        (Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Doan Thi Huong

Photographer: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP via Getty Images

An airport doctor testified that Kim died rapidly, with his blood pressure and pulse first soaring and then plunging.

After the charges were read to the women in their native languages at Malaysia’s High Court, they shook their heads “no” when asked if they were guilty.

The two women are the only suspects in custody in a killing that South Korea’s spy agency said was part of a five-year plot by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to kill a brother he reportedly never met. Police say four North Koreans suspected of involvement left the country on the day of the attack. Three others who holed up inside North Korea’s embassy were allowed to leave in a deal with Pyongyang to ease tensions, despite Malaysia’s anger at the public use of a chemical weapon on its territory.

Lawyers for the two women, who face the death penalty if convicted, asked the court to compel prosecutors to identify four people still at large mentioned in the charge sheet as having a common intention to kill Kim. The judge denied the request.

Four witnesses testified Monday: an airport information counter worker and a police officer who were among the first to interact with Kim after the attack, and a doctor and a nurse at the airport who treated him.

Airport clinic Dr. Nik Mohd Adzrul Ariff Raja Azlan gave a detailed account of Kim’s rapid decline.

Siti Aisyah, an Indonesian, leaves a court near Kuala Lumpur on April 13, 2017, after judicial proceedings against her and Doan Thi Huong, a Vietnamese, both of whom were indicted for killing Kim Jong Nam. (Kyodo)==Kyodo(Photo by Kyodo News via Getty Images)
Siti Aisyah

Photographer: Kyodo News via Getty Images

“When I saw him, his hands were clutching his head. He was closing his eyes tightly and his face was very red. He was sweating profusely,” Nik said, adding that Kim was unable to respond when asked what happened.

Nik said Kim had very high blood pressure and a quickened pulse and started to display seizure symptoms, with his jaw and teeth clenched and eyes rolling upward.

He said Kim then fell unconscious, his blood pressure dropped to 70/40, and then his pulse was lost.

The prosecution phase of the trial is expected to last about two months, after which the judge will decide if there is a strong case for the women to have to mount their defense, said Hisyam Teh Poh Teik, Huong’s lawyer.

Kim, who was 45 or 46, was the eldest son of the family that has ruled North Korea since its founding, yet he reportedly fell out of favor in 2001 when he was caught trying to enter Japan on a false passport, saying he wanted to visit Tokyo Disneyland. He had been living abroad for years and at the time of his death was traveling on a North Korean diplomatic passport under the name “Kim Chol.”

People watch a television showing news reports of Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, at a railway station in Seoul on February 14, 2017.Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has been assassinated in Malaysia, South Korean media reported on February 14. / AFP / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
A television report on Kim Jong-Nam in Seoul on Feb. 14.

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