Four North Koreans who left Malaysia the day Kim Jong Nam was assassinated may have been the ones who poisoned him, a doctor testified during a murder trial here Wednesday.
The comment came during cross-examination of the doctor who autopsied the half-brother of North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un, by lawyers defending two female migrant workers caught on camera allegedly smearing a chemical weapon on the victim's face at a Malaysian airport.
The day’s deliberations saw prosecutors wear masks as they presented evidence said to contain traces of VX nerve agent, including a T-shirt and underwear worn by Kim and a bag belonging to him.
While a defense lawyer questioned him on the witness stand, Dr. Mohd Shah Mahmood acknowledged that Kim could have been poisoned before he went to Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 on Feb. 13. Malaysian police had said Kim was murdered in a chemical weapon attack at the airport that day as he prepared to board a flight to Macau.
The two Southeast Asian women who are on trial could be sentenced to death if convicted, and prosecutors allege that the women smeared Kim’s face with VX as they accosted him at the airport.
Early on in their investigation, police identified four North Korean men as being wanted in connection with the case and Malaysian authorities sought Interpol’s assistance in locating them after they allegedly flew out of Malaysia on Feb. 13. The four North Koreans were filmed by a security camera at the same airport that day, police said.
“Doctor, do you agree with me that you do not know if the four men still at large could have poisoned the victim with VX before going to KLIA?,” defense lawyer Naran Singh asked the witness, to which Mohd Shah responded that he did not know.
“Is there a possibility?” Naran pressed him in his follow-up question.
“If talking about possibility, there’s a possibility,” replied Mohd Shah, who heads the forensic department at Kuala Lumpur General Hospital, where Kim’s body was kept for weeks after the murder.
When the trial opened Monday, the judge turned down a defense request that the prosecution be compelled to include the names of the four North Koreans into the court’s record. Judge Azmi Ariffin said omitting such information would not affect the case against the two defendants.
No DNA match
Apart from traces of VX found in Kim’s blood, eye mucosa and a facial swab, lab tests on blood samples taken from the body revealed traces of other drugs in his system, Mohd Shah also testified. He said VX could enter a person’s system “via skin contact, ingestion, inhalation, injection and the eye.”
“There were six types of drugs in the deceased’s blood samples, namely drugs to treat diabetes, high blood pressure, gout and also erectile dysfunction,” the doctor testified while responding to questions from Gooi Soon Seng, a lawyer representing Indonesian defendant Siti Aisyah, 25.
Naran was one of the lawyers representing the other defendant, Doan Thi Hoang, 28, a Vietnamese national.
On Wednesday, defense lawyers also appeared to try to cast doubt on how the nerve agent was introduced into the victim.
Naran asked if Mohd Shah could agree that the deceased could have been given a drink laced with VX prior to his arrival at the airport, to which the pathologist replied that he “could not determine.”
Under cross-examination from Naran, Mohd Shah also revealed he was not able to conduct a DNA test to confirm the victim’s identity because he had not received a DNA sample from a next-of-kin. When he was murdered, Kim was carrying a North Korean passport that identified him as “Kim Chol.”
This part of his testimony appeared to contradict the Malaysian government’s assertion that Kim Jong Nam’s identity had been verified through a DNA sample provided by one of his children.
“Is it true that DNA from Kim Chol’s body was compared with his son to confirm the body was indeed Kim Chol’s?” Naran asked Mohd Shah.
“Not true,” the doctor replied. “DNA matching couldn’t be conducted as I had only one set of DNA – that is from the deceased.”
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.