Defense in Kim Jong Nam trial casts doubt on poison test lab

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KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – The laboratory that tested the nerve agent allegedly used to assassinate the North Korean leader’s half-brother was not on the list of centers approved by the global chemical weapons watchdog, a Malaysian court heard yesterday.

Two women – Indonesian Siti Aisyah and Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong – are on trial over the killing of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on February 13 last year.

Defence lawyers have argued that the women were recruited to take part in what they thought were prank TV shows but were instead tricked into becoming inadvertent assassins, in a plot by a group of North Korean agents.

The women, in their 20s, have denied murdering Kim Jong Un’s estranged half-brother by smearing VX nerve agent on his face as he waited for a flight to Macau. They face death by hanging if found guilty.

Pressed by Ms Aisyah’s lawyer Gooi Soon Seng, chemical weapons expert Raja Subramaniam told the Shah Alam high court the Malaysian lab where the nerve agent VX was tested is not among centers designated by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Labs need to maintain a certain standard to be on the OPCW list, and must participate in proficiency testing at least once a year. The Malaysian lab had not undergone this, a process which Mr Raja said was “voluntary”.

Samples of the nerve agent, considered a weapon of mass destruction, had also not been sent to the OPCW despite the body having made a request, said Mr Gooi.

Prosecutors yesterday closed their case after 39 days of hearings that saw 34 witnesses testify. A verdict is not expected for some months.

Prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin told AFP their case was “watertight”, and he expects the two young Southeast Asian women to take the witness stand to defend themselves.

But Mr Gooi rubbished the prosecution’s confidence: “Where is the direct evidence that Siti applied anything? We are confident she will be acquitted.”

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