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BackStories » Vietnam » Bleak Prospect for Vietnamese Suspect in Kim Jong-Nam Murder After Judge Rules 'Enough Evidence' to Proceed to Trial

A Malaysian judge ruled the two suspects — Vietnamese Doan Thu Huong and Indonesian Siti Aisyah who were accused of murdering Kim Jong-nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un — will be required to submit defenses as part of a proceeding trial.

On Thursday, Trial Judge Azmi Ariffin claimed that there is enough evidence of a “well planned conspiracy between the women and the four North Koreans at large” to move forward with the trial, according to ABC. Despite noting that it could be a political assassination, the judge said there was no proof of such and was not convinced by the arguments that Vietnamese Huong and Indonesian Aisyah were tricked into smearing Jong-nam with deadly VX nerve gas, thinking they were participants in a prank game show. If convicted, the two women will face death by hanging on charges of murder.

When the trial resumes on November 1, both women will be forced to testify under oath. The ruling is the latest development in a story that sounds straight of of a straight-to-DVD thriller. On February 13, 2017, airport security camera footage caught a woman, later identified as Huong, grab Jong-nam from behind, splash something on his face, and run away. He died in an ambulance while heading for the hospital soon after.

The defense teams have argued that the women were naive and unaware of what they were doing and are now being used as scapegoats for authorities that are unable to catch the actual masterminds. In his ruling on Thursday, however, the judge pointed to the video which shows both women rushing to the bathroom to wash their hands as proof that “they had the knowledge that the liquid on their hands was toxic."

Both 26-year-old Aisyah and 30-year-old Huong share similarly impoverished backgrounds with dreams of becoming television stars. Aisyah was born in Java and worked in clothing factories while Huong, a Nghia Binh native who worked in a bar and was described as the “hope of her family.” Her family used their entire savings to send her to Hanoi for a course she ultimately did not complete. Her mother recently passed away and her father is a janitor. Unlike Aisyah, whose parents have been able to make frequent visits to their daughter, Huong has been more isolated. Her father, from his home in Vietnam, Doan Van Thanh expressed "I don't know what to do next. I just hope they will announce her innocent so that she can return home."

The alluded-to North Korean accomplices, whom Huong and Aisyah knew only by code names, fled the country the morning of the murder. Another North Korean, Ri Jong-chol, was held and questioned by authorities but later released in concert with a deteriorating relationship between Malaysia and North Korea. As part of an escalating series of actions, Malaysia revoked visa-free travel for North Koreans and deported North Korea's ambassador while North Korea expelled Malaysia's envoy and banned all Malaysians from leaving the North Korean capital.

Kim Jong-nam had once been seen as the obvious successor to Kim Jong-il, but his place in his father’s eyes had long been waning. The situation was perhaps made worse when he was caught in 2001 while attempting to sneak into Japan to visit Disney World. He lived a quiet, lavish life, exiled in Macau and publicly criticized his younger half-brother and his inability to rule. North Korea vehemently denies any involvement in his death.

[Photo via Tien Phong

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