Malaysian police escorted Doan Thi Huong (centre) on August 16 (Photo: AFP/VNA)

Kuala Lumpur (VNA) – Doan Thi Huong, a Vietnamese citizen and one of the two women accused in the murder of a Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) national, was ordered to prepare her defence for next year during a court hearing on August 16.

Huong, along with Siti Aisyah from Indonesia, were together accused of smearing the VX nerve agent on the DPRK citizen, who held a passport under the name of Kim Chol, at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia on February 13, 2017.

Judge Azmi Ariffin spent almost three hours during the hearing at Shah Alam High Court in Selangor reading out more than 80 pages of documents, including the indictment against the two women and his assessment of the case.

He declared that the prosecutors had made prima facie evidence against the accused women and therefore, called upon them to enter their defence on their respective charges before the final ruling is given.

There is sufficient evidence in court to infer the pair had engaged in a well-planned conspiracy to kill the victim, according to Ariffin. He also requested the two women remain in custody to serve the investigation and trial.

The judge said that he cannot rule out that this could be a political assassination, as there have been media rumours that the victim was a half-brother of DPRK leader Kim Jong-un, but noted there was no concrete evidence to support this.

The defence phase of the trial is set to take place next year on January 7-10, January 28-31, and February 18-19.

Huong and Aisyah were arrested a day after the murder occurred last year. The two defendants have insisted they are not guilty as they had no idea about the murder conspiracy, instead claiming that they were duped into thinking they were taking part in a harmless prank for a reality TV show when they attacked the DPRK national.

However, the prosecutors have argued that they were well-trained assassins who knew exactly what they were doing.

The women’s lawyers argued that their clients have faced unfair trial as authorities were unable to catch the four DPRK nationals who recruited the pair and were the masterminds behind the murder. The court has been told that this group of four had provided the women with the poison on the day of the murder before flying out of Malaysia.

If found guilty, Huong and Aisyah could face the death penalty.–VNA