Two women charged with assassinating the North Korean leader’s estranged half-brother will remain in custody after a judge on Thursday ordered the trial to continue and instructed lawyers to prepare a defense.
Siti Aisyah, 25, from Indonesia, and Doan Thi Huong, 29, from Vietnam, are accused of murdering Kim Jong Nam by smearing nerve agent VX on his face at the Kuala Lumpur airport on Feb. 13, 2017. Both women have pleaded not guilty, with their lawyers arguing that they believed they were taking part in a prank for a reality TV show.
Prosecutors have argued that the women knew what they were doing and took part in an attack that was not only premeditated, but also practiced in advance.
High Court judge Azmi Ariffin appeared to agree, citing a “well-planned conspiracy” between the women and four North Korean suspects who remain at large, according to the Associated Press. He ruled that the prosecution had presented enough evidence to move the case forward, prolonging the six-month trial as the defense mounts its case.
“The onus is on the accused to explain their conduct,” Azmi said.
In his two hour ruling, which was widely anticipated to provide a verdict, the judge reportedly indicated it was possible that the women did not know they were using a deadly nerve agent. But he said that evidence pointed to a “simultaneous act” by the women. Prosecutors have pointed to security camera footage which showed Doan rushing to the bathroom after clasping Kim Jong Nam’s face as an indication that she was aware she was in possession of a dangerous substance.
Defense lawyers argued that the women were unwitting scapegoats in a political assassination planned by the North Korean Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. The four North Korean suspects fled Malaysia the same day Kim Jong Nam died.
When the trial resumes on Nov. 1, Indonesian suspect Siti will be the first witness to testify, the Associated Press reports. Doan also intends on testifying on a yet to be determined date.
If found guilty, the two could face the death penalty.