Judge may acquit women or call defense in Kim Jong Nam trial

This combination of the Oct. 2, 2017 file photos shows Indonesian Siti Aisyah, left, and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, right, escorted by police as they leave a court hearing in Shah Alam, Malaysia, outside Kuala Lumpur. (AP)
Updated 15 August 2018
0

Judge may acquit women or call defense in Kim Jong Nam trial

  • Evidence has shown the women’s conduct before and after the killing was inconsistent with that of assassins
  • The women had “used their bodily power” to deliberately target the poison on his eyes and face for faster penetration

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Two Southeast Asian women on trial in Malaysia for the brazen assassination of the North Korean leader’s half-brother could be acquitted Thursday or called to enter their defense in a case that has gripped the world.
Indonesia’s Siti Aisyah, 25, and Vietnam’s Doan Thi Huong, 29, are accused of smearing VX nerve agent on Kim Jong Nam’s face in a crowded airport terminal in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 13, 2017. The women have said they thought they were taking part in a prank for a hidden-camera show.
They are the only two suspects in custody and face the death penalty if convicted. If the defense is called, the trial could take several more months.
If the women are acquitted, they may not be freed right away as prosecutors could still appeal the decision as well as push forward with separate charges for overstaying their visas.

Here’s a look at arguments that were raised during the trial:
THE PROSECUTION
Over the course of the six-month trial featuring testimony from 34 people, prosecutors laid out a bizarre murder plot they likened to something from a James Bond film.
They accused four North Koreans, suspected government agents with code names such as “Mr. Y” and “Grandpa” and later identified by police, of being the masterminds who recruited the women, trained them and provided them with VX. All four fled the country the same morning Kim was killed and none are in custody.
Airport security footage shown in court captured the moment of the attack and prosecutors said linked the women to the other suspects. Shortly after Kim arrived at the airport, Huong was seen approaching him, clasping her hands on his face from behind and then fleeing. Another blurred figure was also seen running away from Kim and a police investigator testified that it was Aisyah.
Investigators said the women were seen rushing to separate washrooms, each with their hands outstretched, before they fled the airport. Kim died within two hours of the attack.
A government chemist testified that the VX concentration found on Kim’s skin was 1.4 times greater than the lethal dosage. He said VX was found in Kim’s eyes, face, blood, urine and clothing, as well as on both women’s clothes and on Huong’s fingernail clippings.
In his closing arguments in June, prosecutor Wah Shaharuddin Wan Ladin said the women must have been trained to use VX, a rare nerve agent developed as a chemical weapon. He said they had to know the best route for VX to enter the victim’s body and know that they must wash the nerve agent off themselves within 15 minutes to avoid being contaminated.
With Kim a tall and heavy man, the prosecutor said the women had “used their bodily power” to deliberately target the poison on his eyes and face for faster penetration. Despite their claim about a prank, he said their facial expressions and conduct during the attack didn’t reflect any humor.
“We expect that the defense will be called for a simple reason: They need to explain why VX was found on them,” Wan Shaharuddin told The Associated Press.

THE DEFENSE
Lawyers for the two women say their clients were simply pawns in a politically motivated killing with clear links to the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
They say the prosecution’s case was too simplistic, handicapped by a sloppy investigation and failed to show any intention on the part of their clients to kill — key to establishing the women’s guilt.
The defense said evidence has shown the women’s conduct before and after the killing was inconsistent with that of assassins, pointing out that they didn’t wear gloves when applying VX, didn’t dispose of their tainted clothing and didn’t flee the country.
The real culprits, the defense argues, are the four North Korean suspects. The four were captured by airport security cameras discarding their belongings and changing their clothing after the attack.
The North Korean Embassy has also been implicated with an embassy official helping get flights out for the four men and using the name of one of its citizens to buy a car that was used to take the suspects to the airport.
Nevertheless, Pyongyang has denied accusations by South Korean and US officials that it was behind the killing. Malaysian officials have never officially accused North Korea and have made it clear they don’t want the trial politicized.
“The prosecution’s evidence is purely circumstantial,” Aisyah’s lawyer Gooi Soon Seng said, noting that there was no proof that his client applied VX on Kim. He said his client’s DNA was not found on a shirt recovered by police.
Huong’s lawyer Hisyam Teh Poh Teik said they have given prosecution “a good fight.”
“We are confident that justice will be served on Thursday and (Huong) will be acquitted,” he said.


Macron honors Algerians who fought for colonial France

Updated 14 min 17 sec ago
0

Macron honors Algerians who fought for colonial France

  • Macron is to grant national awards to more than 20 former fighters and people who have battled for recognition of the Algerians who fought for Paris in the country’s brutal eight-year liberation war.
  • Another 19 people are to be granted an Order of Merit, ahead of France’s National Harki Day on September 25.

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron announced honors on Friday for Algerians who fought alongside French troops in Algeria’s war of independence, part of fresh moves to confront France’s painful legacy in north Africa.
Macron is to grant national awards to more than 20 former fighters and people who have battled for recognition of the Algerians who fought for Paris in the country’s brutal eight-year liberation war.
After a peace accord granted Algerian independence on March 18, 1962, only around 60,000 Algerian loyalists known as “harkis” were allowed into France. There, they suffered rampant discrimination and, in many cases, poverty.
The rest — between 55,000 and 75,000, according to historians — remained in Algeria, where many were massacred after being accused of being traitors.
Notifications published in the official journal on Friday showed that Macron would grant the Legion d’Honneur, the country’s top honor, to six former fighters and the co-founder of an association which has fought for their rights.
Another 19 people are to be granted an Order of Merit, ahead of France’s National Harki Day on September 25.
The fate of the harkis in France and their descendants, who number hundreds of thousands, remains a highly sensitive issue in France, acting as a reminder of its colonial history.
Previous presidents of the left and right had taken cautious steps to acknowledge and face up to French wrongdoing in Algeria and after the war.
Rightwing leader Nicolas Sarkozy admitted in 2012 that France failed in its duty toward the Algerians who fought for France, saying the country “should have protected the harkis from history, it did not do so.”
Macron has gone further than his predecessors in addressing France’s past in Algeria.
Last year he sparked controversy on the campaign trail by declaring that France’s colonization of Algeria was a “crime against humanity,” leading to protests from some harki groups.
And last week he acknowledged that the French military instituted a “system” that facilitated torture as it sought to cling on to its 130-year rule in the country.
He made the announcement while admitting that the French state was responsible for the torture and death of mathematician Maurice Audin, a French Communist pro-independence activist who disappeared in Algiers in 1957.
The 1954-1962 Algerian war of independence sparked fears of a coup in France, with mutinous generals reluctant to relinquish the colony.
The conflict left at least 400,000 people dead.