Kim Jong Nam, the murdered half-brother of North Korea’s leader, was carrying an antidote to the nerve agent that killed him when he was attacked in February in Kuala Lumpur’s international airport.
Two women, Siti Aisyah, an Indonesian national, and Doan Thi Huong, a Vietnamese national, have been charged with conspiracy to murder Kim. They are alleged to have worked with four North Korean agents to smear the banned chemical VX on his face as he was transiting the airport in the Malaysian capital on Feb 13.
Just prior to an extended adjournment, the courtroom in Kuala Lumpur heard testimony Friday from toxicologist Dr. K. Sharmilah that in Kim’s sling bag, he was carrying 12 vials of atropine, a general-purpose antidote for nerve agents that is often issued to soldiers in case of a chemical attack.
Kim — once considered the heir apparent to lead North Korea before falling out of favor with his father, the late Kim Jong Il – was living with his family in exile in Macau at the time of the attack. From afar, he had been critical of North Korea’s dynastic rule. Kim Jong Un, who inherited the leadership in 2011, was believed to have issued a standing order for his brother’s execution.
Airport surveillance video shows two women approaching Kim in one of the terminals. One covers his face with a cloth. Minutes later, Kim is seen gesturing for help before he goes into a seizure. He later died on the way to the hospital.
As NPR’s Colin Dwyer reported in February, just two weeks after the attack: “Since Kim Jong Nam’s death … speculation has swirled that the eldest Kim brother, who was exiled more than a decade ago, was assassinated by the North Korean government — a charge North Korea has denied. Suspicions were only stoked further with [the] revelation by Malaysian police that the poison used to kill him was VX nerve agent, which is classified as a weapon of mass destruction and banned by the international Chemical Weapons Convention.”
The women charged in connection with the apparent assassination claim they were duped. And, The Associated Press notes of the trial: “Prosecutors have focused on proving the women’s guilt but shied away from scrutinizing any political motive behind the killing. Defense lawyers, who say their clients were duped into carrying out the attack, will look to shift that focus when the trial resumes Jan. 22.”